Rabu, 15 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Explosions at compound of Libya leader Gaddafi

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 09:16 PM PDT

A painter paints a caricature of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi May 1, 2011. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem/Files)

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A series of loud blasts rocked central Tripoli early on Thursday morning and smoke could be seen rising above the fortified compound of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi's sprawling compound has been the target of repeated NATO air strikes.

(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Syrians flee northern town as tanks close in

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 07:12 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Thousands of Syrians have fled the historic town of Maarat al-Numaan to escape troops and tanks pushing into the north in a widening military campaign to crush protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

People raise a large Syrian flag along the al-Mezzeh Highway in Damascus in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA on June 15, 2011. (REUTERS/Sana/Handout)

In Turkey, which has been receiving thousands of Syrian refugees escaping military assaults, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan held talks on Wednesday with an envoy of Assad as Ankara pressed its southern neighbour to end military attacks n Syrian cities and towns that it has called "savagery".

Residents said an armoured column had reached the village of Mantas, 15 km (10 miles) to the east of Maarat al-Numaan while another column was 20 km west at the village of al-Khwein. Troops also continued to be air lifted by helicopter to a staging camp 2 km from the town, residents said.

"The troops are firing randomly at the outskirts of al-Maarat al-Numaan to scare the population, which drove more people to flee tonight," one witness in the village of Maarshamsha on the edge of Maarat al-Numaan told Reuters by telephone.

He said the gunfire killed one man, Mohammad al-Abdallah, and that the shooting was so heavy that he had to be buried in the backyard of his house.

"Cars are continuing to stream out of Maarat al-Numaan in all directions, People are loading them with everything: blankets, mattresses on roofs," another witness said from the town of 100,000, which straddles the north-south highway linking Damascus with Syria's second city, the commercial hub of Aleppo.

On the edge of a limestone massif in an agricultural area in the northwest, Maarat al-Numaan is a centre of Muslim pilgrimage and the site of a medieval massacre by Crusaders. In modern times it was the focus of a campaign to crush Islamist and leftist challengers to Bashar's father, the late Hafez al-Assad.

In the conservative Damascus suburb of Harasta, security forces fired live ammunition to disperse a night protest by 200 women demanding the release of their husbands and relatives, arrested in an intensifying security sweep to put down the three-month uprising, a witness said.

"They carried placards saying 'where is my husband' and 'where is my brother' and pictures of the prisoners. No one was hurt but it was barely 10 minutes into the demonstration when they opened fire," said the witness.


Maarat al-Numaan's residents said thousands of people headed to Aleppo and to Turkey, adding to a refugee flow following a military assault this week on Jisr al-Shughour, a town near the Turkish border which had also seen large protests.

The official state news agency said an army assault in Jisr al-Shughour had restored security there and thousands of people were returning. But Turkish officials said 8,500 Syrians, many from Jisr al-Shughour, had sought sanctuary in Turkey, which has set up four refugee camps across the border.

Refugees said there had been no mass movement back and another 10,000 were sheltering inside Syria close to the border.

"The Turks are not letting us in as before. Otherwise thousands more would cross," said Khaled, one of the refugees on the Syrian side who had escaped Jisr al-Shughour.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who speaks Arabic, went to the border and talked to refugees, including wounded men lying on beds in camp hospitals.

Seeing Davutoglu approach, the Syrians -- men, women and children -- gathered together chanting "Freedom" and "Erdogan."

"I'll talk to Turkmani (Assad's envoy) and will share with him with all frankness what I saw. We are seeing a humanitarian situation here and developments are concerning," Davutoglu told reporters after visiting a camp in Yayladagi, across from the town of Jisr al-Shughour, 20 km (13 miles) away.

A Reuters correspondent said Turkish authorities have tightened control over the border, making it harder for Syrians to cross unofficially.

A Turkish Red Crescent official, who requested anonymity, said more tent camps were being prepared at the eastern end of the 800 km border, near the Turkish city of Mardin, far from where the current influx of refugees is concentrated.

Fleeing refugees described shootings by troops and gunmen loyal to Assad, known as "shabbiha", and the burning of land and crops in a scorched earth policy to subdue people of the region. The government has accused "armed groups" of burning crops in an act of sabotage.

Syrian authorities said 120 security personnel were killed earlier this month in Jisr al-Shughour. It also said the army had found a second mass grave in the town containing the bodies of soldiers and police killed by "armed terrorist groups".

Witnesses said residents and deserting security forces attacked a police compound in Jisr al-Shughour about 10 days ago after police killed 48 people. They said 60 police, including 20 deserters, were killed.

In the tribal east, where Syria's 380,000 barrels per day of oil is produced, tanks and armoured vehicles pulled back from the city of Deir al-Zor and from around Albu Kamal on the border with Iraq, a week after tens of thousands of people took to the streets there demanding an end to Assad's autocratic rule.

"The authorities are negotiating with the leaders of the street demonstrations in Albu Kamal to try and avoid an assault," one activist in the region said.

In Damascus, thousands of Assad supporters lined one of the capital's main thoroughfares on Wednesday and lifted a 2,300-metre-long tricolour Syrian flag, while waving pictures of the president. State media said it was a demonstration of national unity and "rejection of foreign interference in Syrian internal affairs."

The protests erupted on March 18 in the southern city of Deraa on the border with Jordan, which was later attacked by forces loyal to Assad. Witnesses said the Deraa border crossing with Jordan partially re-opened to cargo traffic on Thursday.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed. Rights campaigners said many of the soldiers were shot by secret police or by loyalist forces for refusing to fire on civilians.

(Additional reporting by Tulay Kardeniz in Guvecci, Turkey; Simon Cameron-Moore and Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Syphilis testing could dramatically cut baby deaths

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 06:11 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Cheap, simple tests and treatments for syphilis in pregnancy could prevent more than half of newborn deaths and stillbirths related to the disease, which kills 500,000 a year in Africa, a new study has found.

Research by British scientists published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday found that syphilis is a major cause of infant death in many poorer countries and that antenatal syphilis screening is one of the most cost-effective ways of improving newborn and child survival.

Some 2 million pregnant women are infected with syphilis globally each year and around 1.2 million of these transmit the infection to their baby, who may be stillborn, born early, born with a low birth weight, or congenitally infected as a result.

Experts say an estimated one million babies die each year from congenital syphilis.

Yet for as little as $1 or $1.50, all pregnant women could be screened for syphilis using a standard blood test and treated with the cheap antibiotic penicillin if they were found to have the disease, said Sarah Hawkes from University College London.

"It's incredibly cheap, you can do it with a simple blood test -- and women often have blood tests during antenatal care anyway," Hawkes said in a telephone interview.

"But we need to get all women who are pregnant to come to antenatal care early enough to be able to make a difference."


Syphilis is a curable infection caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. It is sexually transmitted, and can also be passed on from a mother to her foetus during pregnancy.

The World Health Organization estimates that 12 million new cases of syphilis occur every year. In developing countries, between 3 and 15 percent of women of child-bearing age have it.

Most people with syphilis tend to be unaware of it and so can unwittingly pass it on during sex or to an unborn child. The worst outcomes of syphilis in pregnancy can be prevented if the infection is detected and treated before around 28 weeks.

In a study known as a meta-analysis, Hawkes' team reviewed the evidence for ways of increasing syphilis testing and treatment rates and improving pregnancy outcomes.

Their review included 10 studies and more than 41,000 women and showed offering women same-day testing and treatment could cut perinatal deaths -- which includes stillbirths and miscarriages -- by 54 percent. Looking at stillbirths alone, the deaths could be reduced by 58 percent, they found.

"What this review shows is that screening is extremely effective at bringing down death rates and illness rates, but unfortunately the majority of pregnant women in the world are still not screened for syphilis," Hawkes said.

In a comment on the study's findings, Peter Piot, director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was a reminder that syphilis is not a disease of the past, but a major cause of death for hundreds of thousands of newborn babies.

"We can so easily stop this," Piot said. "Syphilis is invisible: if you don't test for it you don't find it."

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

TV series twosome named to announce Emmy nominees

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 06:18 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): TV series stars Melissa McCarthy and Joshua Jackson will be early risers on July 14 to announce the nominations for this year's prime-time Emmys.

McCarthy and Jackson will be up at 5:40 a.m. Pacific time to join John Shaffner, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, to make the announcements in Los Angeles, the Academy said Wednesday.

McCarthy stars on the CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly," and is also appearing opposite Kristen Wiig in the comedy feature "Bridesmaids."

Jackson is currently starring on the Fox sci-fi drama "Fringe."

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards telecast is scheduled to air on Fox on Sept. 18.

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Playboy's Hefner dumped at the alter

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 01:04 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): Heartbroken Playboy founder Hugh Hefner said Tuesday his wedding this weekend was canceled because his 25-year-old fiancee, a Playmate from his magazine, changed her mind.

Hefner, 85, and Crystal Harris were due to tie the knot in front of more than 300 guests at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles Saturday. It would have been Hefner's third marriage.

``The wedding is off. Crystal has had a change of heart,'' Hefner wrote on Twitter.

``The breakup is a heart breaker, but better now than after the marriage,'' he added later.

He also denied a report on celebrity website TMZ.com that the couple had had ``a nasty argument'' on the phone.

Adding insult to injury, he said Harris took his favorite pet, a cocker spaniel named Charlie, when she moved out of the mansion.

On the other hand, Hefner said he has been consoled by his coterie of old pals and his former wife Kimberley Conrad, and announced he would be hosting a screening of Runaway Bride.

Hefner proposed to Harris on Christmas Eve, he announced on Twitter at the time. Since then Hefner has been planning the nuptials in between serving as hands-on editor of Playboy and entertaining family and friends at movie screenings and backgammon games.

A two-hour TV special featuring wedding highlights was due to air July 13 on the women's cable channel Lifetime.

Hefner and second wife Conrad, a former Playmate now 48, divorced in 2010 after a lengthy separation. His first marriage to Mildred Williams ended in divorce in 1959. He has two children from each marriage.

Hefner, known around the world by his nickname, Hef, has championed sexual freedom and civil rights, published stories challenging McCarthyism and the Vietnam War, and backed gay causes and the legalization of marijuana.

With a cover featuring a calendar photo of Marilyn Monroe, Hefner put together the first issue of Playboy on the kitchen table in his Chicago apartment in 1953 at a cost of US$600. It sold 51,000 copies -- enough to finance a second issue -- and led to a multimillion dollar international corporation, which Hefner recently took private.

Raised in San Diego by British parents, Harris met Hefner at his annual Halloween party in 2008.

She moved in to the mansion after a few weeks and became Playboy's Playmate of the Month in December 2009. She will be on the cover of the magazine's upcoming July issue.

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Fitri and Azhar carry their rivalry from Wira to CP115 category

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:03 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: CP115 riders Mohd Fitri Ashraf Razali and Mohd Azhar Abdul Jalil find themselves entangled with each other as they move into the fifth leg of the Petronas AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championships in Teluk Intan next weekend with a one-point deficit.

The duo have had strong rivalry in the Wira category last season. And they moved up the ranks to compete in the intermediate category this season to broaden their racing career.

Fitri of Harian Metro TEQ SCK Honda Racing is more aggressive in his approach. He battled with the top runners in Terengganu (Round 3) and in Putrajaya (Round 4).

Unfortunately, he crashed in Round 3 but made up for the disappointment in the following leg to secure a podium finish. He is in ninth spot in the standings with 24 points.

Azhar of Motul Yamaha YY Pang has been consistently finishing the race among the top 10 except in the second round in Batu Kawan where he crashed and did not finish the race. He now ranks 10th overall on 23 points.

Fitri commented on his performance in the first half of the season,

"Everything has been proceeding well, considering this is my first year in the CP115," said Fitri, who hails from Rawang.

"In the early part of the season, my machine was in top condition but I faced some problems adjusting to the high level of competition, hence the poor results.

"The confidence started to come in Terengganu but sadly I crashed and missed out on the podium. Hopefully, I can get even better results in Teluk Intan next weekend."

The current leader in the CP115 championship standings is Azhar's team-mate Zaidy Mohd Zaifaizal on 76 points.

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Defending Wimbledon champion given the eighth seed

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:01 PM PDT

WIMBLEDON: Defending champion Serena Williams was bumped up to No. 8 in the seedings – 18 places above her world ranking – for Wimbledon yesterday, a position that will allow her to avoid playing the high­est-ranked players until at least the quarter-finals.

Williams won her 13th Grand Slam title last year at the All England Club, but then stepped on broken glass, eventually leading to blood clots on her lungs, and was out of action for nearly a year. She returned to competitive tennis on Tuesday at Eastbourne, coming back from a set down to beat Tsvetana Pironkova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Wimbledon starts on Monday. The draw is scheduled for tomorrow.

On the men's side, defending champion Rafael Nadal was seeded No. 1, followed by Novak Djokovic at No. 2, Roger Federer at No. 3 and Andy Murray at No. 4 – in line with their rankings.

Federer and Nadal have combined for the past eight titles at the All England Club. For Federer, it's the first time he's been outside the top two seedings at Wimbledon since 2003, the year he won the first of five straight titles at the grass-court Grand Slam.

Since Serena's injury, she has dropped to No. 26 in the WTA rankings. If Wimbledon organisers had seeded her according to her ranking, the four-time Wimbledon champion could have come up against a top player in the third round.

Her sister Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion, was seeded No. 24. She has dropped to 33rd in the rankings since missing most of this season with a hip injury. She also returned to action this week in Eastbourne.

"The seeding order follows the WTA rankings list, except where in the opinion of the committee, a change is necessary to produce a balanced draw," Wimbledon organisers said. "The only changes this year are Serena Williams and Venus Williams moving to 8 and 24, respectively. This reflects the balance between their proven records and also their lack of competitive play in the past 12 months."

The sisters have combined to win nine of the last 11 titles at the All England Club.

At the top of the women's seeding list is top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. She is followed by Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters at No. 2, Vera Zvonareva at No. 3 and French Open champion Li Na at No. 4. Another former winner, 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, was seeded No. 6, one behind Victoria Azarenka.

Clijsters, who has won three major titles since coming out of retirement in 2009, aggravated an ankle injury on Tuesday in a loss at the Den Bosch Open and is in doubt for Wimbledon.

The second-ranked Belgian originally hurt her right ankle while dancing barefoot at her cousin's wedding in April. She played at the French Open, but lost in the second round. — AP

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Bryan hopes to do well in world meet to earn Olympic spot

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:00 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Platform diver Bryan Nickson Lomas is stepping up to the challenge as he seeks to kill two birds with one stone at the world aquatics championships in Shanghai next month.

Bryan is raising his level of difficulties during the current one-month training stint in Dali, China, in the hope that it will not only help him secure a third consecutive Olympic appearance in London next year but also a prized medal in the championships scheduled for July 16-31.

Bryan, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on June 30, hopes to successfully execute a four-and-a-half somersault dive routine at the championships.

Three-and-a-half somersault routines were in vogue at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but the competitive standards in platform diving have since increased and the top ranked divers are now attempting a more complex dive.

Bryan, who became Malaysia's first world junior diving champion in 2004, has a realistic chance to chalk up another first for the country as the first male medal winner in the world championships based on his bronze medal effort in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games and Guangzhou Asian Games last year.

However, he needs to raise his performance if he hopes to challenge strongly against the likes of China's Qiu Bo and Zhou Luxin, Australia's Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham and defen­ding world champion Tom Daley of Britain.

"The top ranked divers have started using this routine but it's not so easy to get it right," said Bryan.

"That is one of the reasons why the Chinese have not done well in men's platform diving as it is hard to control the rotation once you are in the air.

"I have started to use this routine in training but I am trying to get the right technique to enter the water. I am also improving on my remaining routines and if my entries are clean, I have a chance to fight for a medal.

"My main aim, however, is to get into the final to secure an early ticket to the Olympics."

The world championships offer the 12 finalists qualification for the London Games.

Bryan, who featured in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics, has an excellent record in the world championships as he reached the top 12 final in men's platform in 2007 (Mel­bourne) and 2009 (Rome).

His best placing was in Melbourne where he finished seventh in the final en route to becoming the first Malaysian athlete to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

Besides Bryan, the other male divers currently training in China are Yeoh Ken Nee, Ooi Tze Liang, Mohd Fakhrul Izzat and Ahmad Amsyar.

The women divers involved in the stint are Commonwealth Games champion Pandelela Rinong, Leong Mun Yee, Trasie Vivien, Cheong Jun Hoong and Wendy Ng.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

China increases holdings of US Treasury securities to US$1.15tril

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:54 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - China, the biggest buyer of U.S. Treasury debt, boosted its holdings in April, the first increase after five straight declines.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that China increased its holdings by $7.6 billion to $1.15 trillion.

Total foreign holdings of Treasury securities rose 0.2 percent to $4.49 trillion.

Japan, the second largest buyer of U.S. debt, trimmed its holdings slightly by $1 billion to $906.9 billion. There had been concerns that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami would lead Japan to sharply reduce its purchases to use the money for reconstruction.

The government hit its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit on May 16. Since then, Treasury officials have been making various bookkeeping maneuvers to clear room to continue normal borrowing operations. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he will run out of maneuvering room by Aug. 2 if Congress has not passed a higher debt limit by that time.

The debt limit is the amount the government can borrow to finance its operations.

Republicans are demanding spending cuts that would equal the total increase in the debt limit. But Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Republicans on Tuesday that it would be dangerous to use an increase in the debt ceiling as leverage to get spending cuts.

The deficit is expected to exceed $1 trillion for the third straight year as the government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends and a large portion of that borrowing is financed by foreigners.

Analysts said that latest foreign holdings data show that foreign buyers of Treasurys were not deterred in April by the politics affecting the U.S. debt limit.

Gregory Daco, U.S. economist at Global Insight, said foreign investors still consider U.S. Treasury securities a good investment, particularly at a time of global turmoil over such issues as European debt problems.

"Private investors seem to be making the bet that the current U.S. growth slowdown is transitory and that momentum should pick up in the second half of the year," Daco said.

The Treasury report said that the United Kingdom, the third largest holder of Treasury securities, increased its holdings to $333 billion in April, up from $325.2 billion in March.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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Commodities fall on worries about Greek debt

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:48 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Commodities plummeted Wednesday after Greece's debt crisis grew worse and New York area manufacturing weakened.

The news undermined confidence that demand for basic materials will continue to grow at a fast pace. Oil and other energy products plunged at least 4.5 percent while grains fell as much as 4 percent. Most metals also dropped, although gold settled up slightly.

Thousands of people protested in Athens against cutbacks required to avoid a default on the government's debt. If Greece defaults on its loans, it could affect the economies of other European countries.

Moody's said it may downgrade its ratings of France's three largest banks because of their exposure to Greek debt. Earlier this week Standard & Poor's cut Greece's creditworthiness to the bottom of the 131 countries that have ratings.

The New York Federal Reserve's survey of manufacturers in the New York region fell to -7.8 in June from 12 the previous month. A reading below zero indicates that the sector is shrinking. It marked the first time the index had fallen below zero since November.

The National Association of Home Builders said its builders' sentiment index fell in June to the lowest level in nine months.

Investors also are watching closely as the Federal Reserve ends a $600 billion bond-buying program at the end of June. The program, called quantitative easing, was intended to keep interest rates low and encourage economic growth.

"The trend overall is just weakening data and with (quantitative easing) coming to an end at the end of the month, it's got a lot of people very, very concerned," Kingsview Financial analyst Matt Zeman said. "The question still remains, can this economy continue to recover without stimulus?"

Most commodities also were pushed lower as the dollar grew stronger. Commodities are priced in dollars so a stronger dollar makes them more expensive for buyers who use other currencies.

In contracts for July delivery, wheat fell 22.75 cents, or 3.1 percent, to settle at $7.085 a bushel, corn dropped 29.75 cents, or 3.9 percent, at $7.2575 a bushel and soybeans were unchanged at $13.68 a bushel.

Benchmark oil for July delivery fell $4.56, or 4.6 percent, to settle at $94.81 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex contracts, heating oil dropped 14.1 cents, or 4.5 percent, to settle at $2.9848 per gallon, gasoline fell 14.11 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $2.9235 per gallon and natural gas dropped 0.4 cent to $4.577 per 1,000 cubic feet.

August gold settled up $1.80 at $1,526.20 an ounce. July silver fell 0.1 cent to settle at $35.41 an ounce.

In other metals contracts, July copper dropped 3.3 cents to settle at $4.122 a pound, July platinum dropped $20.70 to $1,774.20 and September palladium fell $16.75 to $776 an ounce.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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UK government backs separation of banks

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:46 PM PDT

LONDON (AP) - The British government intends to force banks to separate their retail operations from their more volatile investment banking, and it is putting up for sale the first bank nationalized during the credit crisis, the nation's Treasury chief said Wednesday.

George Osborne endorsed the principle of insulating retail banking from other bank activities, but said he was waiting for the final report of the Independent Commission on Banking to flesh out the details.

The move is intended to help prevent a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008 and to keep banks from becoming too big to be allowed to fail.

Even before Osborne spoke to a gathering of financial executives, bank shares tumbled lower following reports of his decision.

"All banks should be allowed to fail safely without affecting vital banking services," Osborne said, "without imposing costs on the taxpayer."

He also announced that the government is preparing to sell nationalized mortgage lender Northern Rock, the first British casualty of the credit crisis.

Shares in Britain's big banks fell Wednesday, with Barclays down 2.7 percent at the close, while bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group fell 1.9 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively. HSBC was also down 1.2 percent.

Osborne said the government hopes to find a single buyer who will pay 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) for Northern Rock, which has been restructured and is still not profitable. The government has siphoned off Northern Rock's most toxic assets into a "bad bank" and is in the process of liquidating them.

The 1.4 billion pounds the government spent to rescue Northern Rock was just the first drop of a flood of taxpayer cash and guarantees which peaked at 955 billion pounds, according to the National Audit Office. In December, the agency said taxpayers are still exposed to half a trillion pounds in potential liabilities.

And that doesn't count the cost of an 18-month recession, rising unemployment and the cost of servicing government debt which piled up during the crisis.

"The Treasury retains the unquantifiable ultimate risk of supporting banks should they threaten the stability of the overall financial system," the NAO said.

The Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by Sir John Vickers, a former chief economist of the Bank of England, has recommended a clear separation of retail and investment banking; details of the commission's proposal are expected in a final report on Sept. 12.

In his interim report in April, Vickers said that "ring-fencing" retail banking would make it easier and less costly to sort out a crisis. This would allow retail operations including current accounts, consumer loans and mortgages to continue, while the investment side could be allowed to fail.

Vickers said the split, along with higher capital requirements on the retail side, "could curtail taxpayer exposure and thereby sharpen commercial disciplines on risk taking."

Bruce Packard, analyst at Seymour Pierce, said the success of the plan depends on whether investors believe any of the big banks' investment arms would be allowed to fail.

If so, Packard said, "they should impose much greater discipline on these divisions. If the idea works, it would make the whole sector more resilient in a crisis, and a more investable proposition for equity investors."

Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, had advocated a break up of the big banks.

In his speech to the gathering, King did not comment on Osborne's decision, but said taxpayers could not credibly continue to support a banking system with assets several times larger than Britain's annual GDP.

Banks "cannot be allowed to benefit from an unsustainable dependence on the U.K. taxpayer. To allow that would be unfair to millions of people, not here tonight, who are now bearing the costs of the financial crisis," King said.

Bankers have been divided in their reaction to the proposals.

Stephen Hester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, recently told a parliamentary committee that ring-fending could backfire by creating "a protected beast that the government would support," inadvertently encouraging excessive risk-taking on the retail side.

Hester added that the removal of implicit government support would also make other parts of the bank more exposed.

RBS and Barclays favor a limited ring-fencing which only covers retail deposits, while HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint recommended that the retail side should include some corporate deposits and loans.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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The Star Online: Nation

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RON97 petrol price down by 10 sen

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 07:24 AM PDT

Published: Wednesday June 15, 2011 MYT 10:11:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday June 15, 2011 MYT 10:24:21 PM

PETALING JAYA: The price of RON97 petrol will be reduced by 10 sen to RM2.80 per litre from midnight Wednesday, according to Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Hashim Othman.

This is the first reduction since the price was floated at market rates.

There have been four increases in RON97 petrol price since the beginning of this year.

The last increase on May 5 saw a hike of 20 sen to RM2.90 per litre.

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Lawyer's murder: Two more detained, police say case solved

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:35 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Two more suspects have been detained over the murder of lawyer Datuk R. Anbalagan, and police believe the case has been solved.

Klang Utara OCPD Supt Shukor Sulong said apart from the 26-year-old prime suspect, two of his friends were remanded for seven days from Wednesday.

The trio are Indian nationals working at the oil plantation and temple which belonged to the slain lawyer-cum-businessman.

Meanwhile, Anbalagan's body was cremated at the Nirvana crematorium in Seksyen 21, Shah Alam.

The 56-year-old was viciously slashed to death after he performed prayers at a temple in Kampung Perepat, Kapar, Monday night.

The prime suspect, believed to be an employee of the victim, fled in Anbalagan's four-wheel drive with a handphone and 800gm of gold jewellery. The items were later recovered.

The family's maid, who witnessed the attack, said Anbalagan collapsed in the temple before the suspect slashed him repeatedly for about three minutes.

"I shouted for help and two workers came rushing out, but they were too terrified to approach the attacker," she was quoted saying.

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Lawyer hacked to death

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:25 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: A prominent lawyer and businessman was viciously slashed to death after he performed prayers at a temple in Kampung Perepat, Kapar.

Datuk R. Anbalagan, 56, suffered multiple slash wounds on the back, face, shoulder and left arm in the attack that took place on Monday night. He died on the spot.

Klang Utara OCPD Supt Shukor Sulong said a 26-year-old suspect, an Indian national believed to be an employee of the victim, fled in Anbalagan's four-wheel drive with a handphone and 800gm of gold jewellery. However, it is learnt that police have arrested the suspect and recovered the vehicle and valuables.

The family's Indonesian maid, who was present at the Sri Ramalingesverer temple at the time of the murder, said that she had accompanied Anbalagan to the temple in his oil palm plantation.

"After the prayers ended at 9.30pm, Datuk (Anbalagan) told me to wait in the car while he went to the house built for the workers. Fifteen minutes later, I heard him screaming.

"When I got out of the car, I saw him running out of the house and being chased by a man with a parang," Siti Aminah Mohd Amran, 24, said.

She said Anbalagan collapsed in the temple and the man slashed him until he became motionless.

"I shouted for help and two workers came rushing out, but they were too terrified to approach the attacker.

"He was slashing Datuk repeatedly for almost three minutes," she said.

She added that the man stared at her before taking the valuables and driving off in Anbalagan's Mitsubishi Storm.

Siti Aminah said she was puzzled over the motive of the attack, saying the man had worked for Anbalagan for slightly over a year.

It was learnt that Anbalagan had acquired his wealth via property investments as well oil palm plantations

The atmosphere at Anbalagan's home in Shah Alam was sombre as relatives and friends were left stunned by the senseless murder.

They described Anbalagan as a rags-to-riches millionaire, who had worked hard throughout his life.

"He went to the Himalayas twice to perform prayers. He was a religious man," a relative said.

Anbalagan leaves behind wife Thelagam Arumugam, 48, and daughter Sri Ananthavalli, 11.

The daughter said she last saw her father on Sunday night just before going to bed and he told her to "take care".

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Elizabeth Hurley, Arun Nayar granted divorce

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:49 AM PDT

LONDON (AP): Actress Elizabeth Hurley and businessman Arun Nayar have divorced after four years of marriage.

The divorce decree was granted at a brief hearing in London Wednesday by District Judge Penny Cushing.

Neither Hurley nor Nayar was in court. The British actress and Indian businessman married in 2007 at an English castle, with singer Elton John giving the bride away.

They followed up the private civil ceremony with a lavish and traditional Hindi wedding in Jodphur, India.

Hurley announced last December that the couple had separated. She has since been romantically linked to Australian cricket star Shane Warne.

Hurley, 46-years old, dated actor Hugh Grant for more than a decade and has a nine-year-old son, Damian, from a relationship with film producer Steve Bing.

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Natalie Portman gives birth to a baby boy

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:42 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Natalie Portman has a baby boy to go along with her Oscar.

The actress gave birth to her first child with fiance Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer of "Black Swan," People magazine reported.

The magazine gave no details. A publicist for Portman did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

The 30-year-old actress and Millepied, a well-regarded ballet dancer and choreographer, met during the making of "Black Swan," Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller that stars Portman as a ballet dancer.

Portman won the best actress Academy Award in February for her performance in the movie.

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Metro Watch

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 04:13 AM PDT


In conjunction with World Environment Month, Cyberview Sdn Bhd calls on Malaysians to swap their cars for bicycles for the first Cyberjaya Green Ride taking place on Saturday. The Cyberjaya Green Ride will traverse the streets of Cyberjaya with a total of 10 categories open to cycling enthusiasts of all ages. For registration, call Ellie Soraya Mohd at ellie@cyberview.com.my (017-334 6469) or Nuraihana Ramlan at nuraihana.ramlan@totalsportsasia.com.


Join Xtramiler Alex Au Yong at KDU University College Section 13, PJ campus on Saturday. There will also be a charity bazaar, music bands and online hunt from 8am to 1pm. The first 10 schools and tuition centres which register will get free transportation, food and goodie bags. For details, e-mail hcfoo@kdu.edu.my or call 012-372 0858 (Foo).


Former students, teachers and staff of Garden International School (GIS) are invited to attend a charity gala dinner on Saturday at JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur to commemorate the school's 60 years of holistic educational excellence. Themed "GIS Reaches Out", the dinner is to raise funds for poor children and a reforest project in Sabah. For enquiries, call Nurlina at 03-6209 6826 or e-mail nurlina.h@gardenschool.edu.my


Head over to Mid Valley Megamall South Court from tomorrow to Sunday and be the first to experience the World's first Giant Augmented Reality Monster. The Mid Valley stop will be the first of a series of roadshows around Malaysia; including Gurney Plaza, Penang (July 1 to 3), AEON Tebrau City, Johor (July 22 to 24) and 1Utama Shopping Mall, Petaling Jaya (Aug 11 to 14). For details, go to www.facebook.com/castrolmalaysia


The Students' Society of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zoological Club, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Serdang will be organising the annual dogathon on Oct 2 from 7am to 2pm at Bukit Ekspo in UPM. The event is held mainly to raise funds to be channelled to the welfare project called "Pro-Kasih" that aims to achieve control of the population of stray animals. For details, call Lee Yee Cheng (012-320 5065) or Nur Afiqah Mohamaddiah (012-638 3181 / 013-379 2124) or e-mail dogathonpublicity@gmail.com


The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur is screening 'Hotel Hibiscus' for the weekend Japanese film show on July 2 at Finas' Pawagam Mini P. Ramlee, Jalan Hulu Kelang in Ampang. For details, call 03-2284 6228.


The Malaysian International Trade Challenge will be held at Glomac Business and Convention Centre, Block A, Level 4, No 8, Jalan 19/1, Section 19, Petaling Jaya, today from 8.30am to 4pm.

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Loyalty card for property buyers

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 04:10 AM PDT

MAH SING Group Bhd, one of Malaysia's fastest growing property developers, has embarked on a "good to great" strategy with its premier M Club Loyalty Rewards.

The enhanced loyalty programme offers its members, numbering 10,000, the chance to enjoy a host of exclusive privileges and discounts from approximately 30 lifestyle brands.

M Club members, better known as the Mah Sing Community, will appreciate select benefits being brought direct to their doorsteps with the simple act of flashing either their Classic, Gold or Platinum M Club card at participating lifestyle merchants whose services range from home and living and beauty, health and wellness to personal development.

The programme is an avenue for Mah Sing to thank its community for their loyalty.

"When we were planning the strategy for the M Club, which was launched a few months ago, we scrutinised our member-base and our members' insights guided us in the development of these lifestyle privileges," said Gen (R) Tan Sri Yaacob Mat Zain, chairman and independent non-executive director of the Mah Sing Group.

"The extensive research and development that went into the selection of lifestyle merchant partners have given this programme its 'wow' factor," he said.

In the pipeline is a new Mah Sing Community website and a community-centric blog to increase interaction, thus leading to greater efficiency and ensuring even higher levels of customer satisfaction.

"We are thrilled to bring fresh experiences right to the doorstep of our community," said Mah Sing chief operating officer (property investment) Eddie Tang.

"Today, we take our first step forward towards elevating the programme to a higher platform by introducing secondary benefits for our members.

"With this, we are confident of slowly but surely expanding the M Club membership beyond its current 10,000 members," Tang added.

M Club, the brainchild of Mah Sing Group managing director and group chief executive Tan Sri Sri Leong Hoy Kum, is the mark of membership into a distinctive programme specially created for the group's property purchasers to enjoy buyer repeat discounts, buyer-get-buyer rewards, birthday surprises, exclusive previews and lot selections during pre-launch of property developments.

It is presented exclusively to those who have purchased Mah Sing properties of any value directly from Mah Sing.

"In future, we hope that the Mah Sing Community will view the M Club card as indispensable as their identification card. In short – our community will never leave home without their M Club card," said Yaacob.

The card's lifestyle merchant partners who include KL Lifestyle Art Space, Lightcraft and Times Bookstores.

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Coping with symptoms

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 05:33 PM PDT

CAN the allergy march be stopped halfway if I notice symptoms in my child, and what should I do?

An allergy march basically illustrates the potential natural history or outcome of having an allergic disease. If a child has eczema, whilst this may start to disappear in terms of symptoms, at some point in the future, he may start to develop respiratory allergies such as asthma or allergic rhinitis.

It is likely that whilst the symptoms or signs of eczema have disappeared, the allergy may persist, and present itself in other ways. The child may develop persistent sneezing, itchiness of the nose, and blocked and running nose on waking up in the morning, which is suggestive of house dust mite allergy, or allergy towards other indoor allergens.

In this scenario, conventional anti-allergic medications such as oral anti-histamines and nasal spray (corticosteroids) may offer symptomatic relief, but may not necessarily prevent the allergy march.

In this situation, the role of allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT) is the only treatment shown to prevent or change the natural outcome of the allergic reaction.

This treatment can be thought of as a re-education process for the immune system, which in allergy, has gone into a hypersensitive mode when encountering harmless organisms such as dust mites.

The ASIT will likely induce a state of tolerance towards these harmless organisms or other aero-allergens. Thus the individual could well revert to his original state of tolerance before the allergy started (for which the actual cause is not known). Dr Amir Hamzah Datuk Abdul Latiff

Related Story:
The allergy march

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The allergy march

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 05:33 PM PDT

The source of your child's allergies may be you.

ALLERGIES may be downright annoying, but it is quite amazing when you get to know what it really is. To appreciate what an allergy is so that we can control it rather than let it control us, we must first understand the body's immune system.

The immune system is a wonderfully efficient defence mechanism that prevents infections. Its job is to recognise foreign invaders and react by producing antibodies to fight these foreign invaders that cause infections and diseases. Except sometimes, the immune system overreacts to substances that are actually not harmful to the body. This is when allergies occur.

For people who are prone to allergies, almost any substance can cause an allergic reaction. Common culprits are substances that are found in the home like dust mites, traces of household detergents, cleaning fluids, moulds, certain types of foods, and even pets. Things that we come in contact with every day can become a problem to an allergic person.

Outside the home, there is also a host of environmental allergens like pollen, pollution, chemicals and smoke that can make life a misery for people with allergies. If the allergies are not dealt with or managed, the body is at risk of being unable to function normally.

Allergy spectrum

Allergens provoke symptoms ranging from mildly annoying to fatal. The more tolerable symptoms are itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, asthma, and itchy inflamed skin in the case of hives and eczema.

On the other hand, an allergic person may also encounter more serious conditions that can lead to a fall in blood pressure, or anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition in which the symptoms include swelling of the throat and mouth, constriction of respiratory passages, nausea and unconsciousness. Any allergen can cause this condition, but the most common culprits are foods, insect stings and drugs.

The march begins

An allergy may go through several stages known as the allergy march. This may start as early as during pregnancy. Then in your child's early years, he may develop common signs of allergy such as vomiting and diarrhoea, or colic.

The clinical picture may progress to eczema which causes dry, red and flaky patches on the skin; at around the same time, food allergies could appear. There would then be some decrease in symptoms of eczema or occurrences of food allergies as children grow older.

However, later stages of the allergy march would present themselves with nasal symptoms (rhinitis) such as blocked and runny nose, itchiness and wheezing or asthma.

Whilst this is the norm of the allergy march, the reverse may occur. Eczema may present itself later in life, preceded by asthma or rhinitis. This reversal of sequence of clinical symptoms is sometimes referred to as the reverse allergy march.

Allergy tracing

Correct diagnosis and the ability to determine the root cause of any ailment are the most effective ways to find a solution. Although not all allergies are inherited, the cause of allergies in a high percentage of people can be traced back to their parents.

If one parent has allergies, then the child is considered to be in the high-risk category, and he has a 20%-40% chance of having allergies. If both parents have it, then the probability could increase to 50%-80%. It is thus important to find out as early as possible if the parents of a child have allergies. If the test results are positive, then the next step is to take preventative measures to reduce allergies.

At the end of the day, there is a multitude of factors that can trigger off allergies. Prevention is possible if it happens at an early stage of a person's life. – Article courtesy of the Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology

For more information, visit www.allergymsai.org.

Quick facts

  • About 35% of children are affected by allergies.
  • Almost 60% of all allergies appear during the first year of life.
  • About 50% of children with food allergy will go on to develop other allergies like eczema, allergic rhinitis or asthma in later life.
  • The vulnerability to allergies is hereditary.

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Coping with symptoms

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Coping with creaky joints

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 04:27 PM PDT

Osteoarthritis, the bane of old age, can be slowed down through various measures.

WOMEN fare badly as far as architecture is concerned (no offense to those in the profession)! What I am referring to is the skeletal scaffolding that upholds the vanity of our body. As the flow from the spring of eternal youth ebbs, the bones and joints crumble, buckle and creak, especially when we move into the fifth decade of senescence.

If Marilyn Monroe were still alive today, those shapely legs would be O-shaped, as the knees would have bowed.

Driving a vehicle downhill is one of those times we treasure our brakes. As we step on it often enough, we would smell the burning of rubber as frictional forces are exerted on the pads. Over time, and with overuse, the brake pads are worn off.

In the same fashion, our joints become thinned out with repetitive use. As for the car, there are spare parts, but unfortunately, there are none for our joints.

Osteo (bone) arthritis (joint inflammation) was initially thought to be wrongly coined as the earlier definition of creaky joints solely referred to wear and tear or degenerative joint disease.

Now the term has become more apt as researchers have indeed found elements of bone changes and joint inflammation in the midst of mechanical breakdown.

Drying up!

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of a painful joint, largely affecting the knees. Almost everyone above the age of 70 has some degree of disrepair, but women are more prone than men.

To the lay person, osteoarthritis means age-related "drying up" of joint lubricant. Of course, there's more than meets the eye. Weight-bearing joints like the knee have a layer of rubbery cartilage that acts like a cushion, dissipating the forces between the thigh and leg bones. Lining the joint cavity is a silky membrane called the synovium, which secretes joint fluid.

The latter is nutritive, protective, lubricating, and acts as "shock absorber". Enveloping these structures is the protective fibrous covering called the joint capsule.

As the clock ticks, the weatherbeaten cartilage undergoes degradation and loses it sponginess, thinning out until bone rubs against bone.

Like the opening of an old door, the joints creak, crack, and grind each time they bend, causing pain and stiffness, especially in the morning.       

By placing the palm over the affected joint during movement, one can sense a grating vibration (known as crepitus), as the thickened and swollen synovium rubs over itself.

Over time, the effect of body weight causes new irregular bone formation just beneath the cartilage and surrounding the knee, leading to little projections called spurs (osteophytes). Some may break off and become a "loose body" within the joint.

The ligaments and muscles around the joint weakens, giving rise to instability during locomotion. Externally, there is broadening of the knees, and in some cases, deformity ensues.

In our early days of mobility, we can descend a flight of stairs in a heartbeat. As for the sufferer with osteoarthritis, just getting down from the car is agonising. The facial grimaces mirror the excruciating pain tearing the joint, especially after prolonged periods of sitting.

This reflects an underlying inflammation. One literally carries the limb onto firm ground, before the tedious process of mobility can even get started.

The stabbing pain that synchronises with each step worsens with movement, as bone grinds over each other. Soon, the synovial membrane becomes inflamed, swells up, and secretes inflammatory fluid into the joint (effusion), increasing the rigidity of an already inflexible joint.

Invariably, the pain and discomfort is verbalised, quite incessantly, for sympathy and empathy. Every time I meet my old folks, they never fail to describe their misery.

Apart from age, there are other contributory causes of osteoarthritis, namely previous injuries or accidents. Athletes and footballers are prone to ligament and cartilage tears. The weakened structures and abnormal weight bearing renders this group of people more prone to osteoarthritis in later years.

Other causes of joint inflammation, such as rhuematoid arthritis, gout and joint bleeding sets the stage for more trouble.

Obesity, limb deformities and mechanical stress on the major joints also pave the way to the orthopaedic surgeons office.


There is, certainly, a hereditary tendency to develop osteoarthritis as well. I know of a family of sisters who limp into my office, taking turns to get pain relief.

As a matter of fact, I too realised where I got my knobbly fingers from! The little bumps on the end joint of the fingers are known as Herbeden's nodes, which can at times become tender and swollen.

Age and acceleration of degenerative changes open up a pandora's box for a host of other painful situations apart from the knees.

"Pain in the neck" symptoms are often due to a condition known as cervical spondylosis. The condition is often triggered by awkward positioning of the neck and prolonged postural strain, precipitating the sharp, lightning pains and numbness that may shoot down the arm. This is due to little spurs that pinch on the nerves coming out from the spine.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is confirmed through radiologic studies or specific scans. Blood tests are unhelpful.

Treatment of osteoarthiritis is as recurrent as the symptoms are. Most times, the only offering on the table is pain relief. Other times, another type of furniture beacons ... the operation table!

Physiotherapy and strengthening exercises are helpful for some. A new approach is the injection of a "joint lubricant" (viscosupplementation), which offers temporary relief.

Various types of surgery are available, and the ultimate changeover is joint replacement.

The realm of treatment is necessarily condensed as they are in the hands of well qualified professionals.

What is more pertinent are measures one can adopt to reduce the burden of painful creaky joints. It is necessarily DIY, as certainly no one can do it for us.

The direct link to food is weak, but generally, it is good sense to adopt an "anti-inflammatory" diet, which essentially includes high fibre, low glycaemic carbohydrates.

Plant-based proteins and fatty fish are healthy choices, unless they are deep frozen, canned, or preserved. Good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats), especially a dose of omega-3 fatty acids through fish oil supplementation and flax seed oil, keep the joints greased and "cool" (the anti-inflammation effect).

Obesity, being an aggravating factor, should be taken by the horns as the damaged joints are carrying the weight of more than one person. Dietary modification veer towards healthy weight management.

Many nutrients have purported effects that minimise the inflammation and pain of osteoarthritis. As degradation of cartilage is a destructive process, free radicals accumulate and increase the oxidative stress level within the joint.

Dietary vitamins A, C, and E are the primary antioxidants. Minerals such as manganese and selenium have regenerative function for natural or endogenous antioxidants. Ginger and tumeric extracts have been used with variable results.

The hottest cake with candles lighting on and off is glucosamine. Although the verdict is not unanimous, chondroitin has joined the bandwagon.

The glucosamine/chondroitin story

Glucosamine made its entry into mainstream medicine 20 years ago, amidst great resistance from doctors like yours truly, who had little faith in nutritional approaches then. Reluctantly, doctors began to take notice when patients reported improvements.

Today, there is hardly any osteoarthritic sufferer who walks into a consultation room and exit without a prescription for glucosamine.

Glucosamine is a simple amino-sugar which is derived from the exo-skeleton of crustaceans and is the building block for cartilage. Its mode of action is the retardation of the thinning of cartilage and apparently reduces the pain in some patients.

There are various forms of glucosamine, and the most researched is glucosamine sulphate.

Chondroitin is a natural component of cartilage that keeps it supple. Commercially, it is sourced from animal or shark cartilage. The evidence on osteoarthritis is a little erratic, with some studies implicating benefit while others point out that it is no better than placebo.

Study design, materials used, and interpretation of results, can be confusing even to the scientific community. Conflicting reports tend to cast doubts on the efficacy of nutritional supplements. In the absence of side effects, if one finds glucosamine or chondroitin beneficial, why not try it?

During a spell of poor judgement, I jogged and jiggled with two dumbbells every morning and developed a painful swollen knee. As I am not a great fan of drugs, I opted for nature's healing, without much resolution.

Finally, reluctantly, I opened a bottle of glucosamine sulphate for the acid test. The result was better than I expected at the end of three weeks.

Anecdotal again, but I have learnt to trust the endpoint more than any meta-analysis.

The hypothetical question is: Can we prevent osteoarthritis?

With positive pessimism, the answer is we can slow down the onset through a healthy lifestyle, with emphasis on maintaining ideal body weight, balanced nutrition, and the right choice of supplements.

The wear and tear will come as sure as age, but we can choose not to be one of the statistics before our time is up.

Unfortunately, most of us treat our body like a machine, visiting the mechanic in a white coat only when the spare parts squeak, squeal, or fall apart.

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

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