Khamis, 16 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Multiple sclerosis linked to shingles - study

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 09:09 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People who get shingles are more likely to also develop multiple sclerosis, with researchers in Taiwan finding that people who developed shingles had four times the risk of being diagnosed with MS within the next year.

But the team led by Jiunn-Horng Kang at Taipei Medical University Hospital warned that their study did not show that shingles itself could cause MS, although there were "several potential mechanisms" that could explain why the two diseases are linked.

"Our findings support the notion that occurrence of MS could be associated with herpes zoster attack," Kang and colleagues wrote in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

"We found a significantly higher risk for MS within 1 year of (a) herpes zoster attack compared with the control population."

Shingles is a painful condition caused by reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox, known as varicella-zoster virus. Once a person has had chicken pox, the virus goes into a dormant state, dwelling in the body's nerve fibers.

However, in some people the virus can reactivate and cause shingles, which usually begins with a burning pain or itch in one location on one side of the body, followed by a rash of fluid-filled blisters.

MS occurs when the protective coating around nerve fibers begins to break down, slowing the brain's communication to the rest of the body. Symptoms include fatigue and problems with balance and muscle coordination, as well as memory loss and trouble with logical thinking in some people.

About 2.5 million people have MS worldwide, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. Most experience their first symptoms between the ages of 15 and 50.

Reviewing a database from the insurer that covers 98 percent of Taiwan's population, the researchers found more than 300,000 people with shingles. They compared them to nearly 950,000 others with similar characteristics, who didn't have the disease.

Over the course of a year, fewer than one in 10,000 in the group with shingles developed MS -- but that was still nearly four times as many as in the group without shingles.

"After adjusting for monthly income and geographic region, the hazard of MS was 3.96 times greater for the study group than controls," the researchers wrote.

Kang said that shingles is associated with disruptions to the immune system, which in turn might trigger MS. Also, a reactivation of the shingles virus may "provoke a series of immune responses in the host which may be linked to MS," Kang told Reuters Health.

The authors cautioned that most people included in the study were Han Chinese, among whom MS occurs relatively infrequently, so the findings might not apply to Western populations.

In addition, the authors did not have information about whether people smoked or drank alcohol, another potential influence on the findings.

"These factors may be confounding to our results and need to be further explored," Kang added.

(Reporting by Alison McCook; editing by Elaine Lies)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Japan cleanup of radioactive water hits snag

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 09:09 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's crisis-hit nuclear power plant could spill more radioactive water into the sea within a week unless engineers can fix a glitch in a new system to clean up pools of contaminated water, officials said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, known as Tepco, has pumped massive amounts of water to cool three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which had meltdowns after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disabled cooling systems.

An undated composite montage image of laser scan data and construction data shows the damaged No. 1 reactor of the Tokyo Electric Power Co.(TEPCO)'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in this handout released by TEPCO June 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Tokyo Electric Power Co/Handout)

But managing the radioactive water has become a major headache as the plant runs out of places to keep it. Around 110,000 tonnes of highly radioactive water -- enough to fill 40 Olympic-size swimming pools -- is stored at the plant.

Tepco, with help from French nuclear group Areva, U.S. firm Kurion and other companies, has been test-running a system in which radioactive water is decontaminated and re-used to cool the reactors.

In a setback, it said water had leaked from a facility used to absorb cesium on Thursday, but it hoped to replace equipment and start the decontamination process by the end of Friday as planned.

"We are working on this with plans (to start the system) today," a Tepco official told reporters.

If the treatment system does not work, the complex could run out of space to store contaminated water as early as June 20, and it could then spill into the sea, Tepco has said.

The start of Japan's monthlong rainy season has also added to the risk of a buildup.

In early April the utility dumped about 10,000 tonnes of water with low-level radioactivity into the ocean, prompting criticism from neighbours China and South Korea.

(Reporting by Chisa Fujioka)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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U.S. congressman Weiner quits in lewd photo scandal

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 09:09 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, ensnared in a humiliating flap for sending lewd photos of himself to women online, resigned on Thursday, ending a weeks-long scandal that made his fellow Democrats cringe.

U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) reacts as he speaks to the press in New York, June 6, 2011. Weiner resigned on Thursday over a weeks-long Internet sex scandal, succumbing to bipartisan calls for him to step down. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files)

"I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district had elected me to do -- to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it," Weiner told reporters in Brooklyn at the seniors' centre where he first announced plans to run for New York City Council 20 years ago.

"Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has made that impossible, so today I am announcing my resignation from Congress," he said, looking composed in contrast to 10 days ago when he tearfully admitted to online dalliances.

Once seen as a rising star among Democrats and widely expected to run for New York mayor, Weiner made his announcement alone, his wife absent, at a raucous event where he was heckled repeatedly.

Weiner, 46, represented parts of New York City in the House of Representatives since his first election in 1998. He had established himself as a leading liberal voice in the House and easily won a seventh two-year term last November.

Under pressure from President Barack Obama and both major political parties, Weiner previously insisted he would seek treatment and take a short leave of absence from the House.

"Obviously, it's been a tough incident for him," Obama said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" to air on Friday. "But I'm confident that they'll refocus and he'll refocus, and they'll end up being able to bounce back," he added in an excerpt released on Thursday night.

On Tuesday, Obama told NBC News: "He's embarrassed his wife and his family. ... If it was me, I would resign."

Democrats feared that Weiner had become a political liability to their efforts to win back the House from Republicans in next year's elections. Weiner also had been seen as a strong contender for New York mayor in 2013.

Elizabeth Viggiano, a 62-year-old senior at the centre, said: "It's heartbreaking. He got caught with his pants down."

Other locals such as Robert Kolowaski, 56, had mixed feelings, calling his actions victimless. "He was very feisty," he said. "He stood up for the people."

Weiner is the third member of Congress to step down this year in sex scandals. Republican John Ensign of Nevada quit the Senate after an extramarital affair with a former campaign aide. Republican Chris Lee of New York quit the House after sending a shirtless photo of himself to a woman he met online.


Weiner's resignation marked a remarkable fall from grace for a politician who in 1992 became New York's youngest-ever City Council member, at age 27.

Weiner was known for his forceful debating and acerbic wit. He had powerful friends, too. Weiner married Huma Abedin, 35, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a ceremony last July officiated by former President Bill Clinton.

His mentor was New York's powerful U.S. senator, Chuck Schumer, for whom he had worked after graduating from college.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said: "Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right judgment in resigning."

A senior Democratic congressional aide said the final straw for Pelosi was on June 8, when additional photos of Weiner emerged.

The aide added that during a call last Friday, Weiner urged Pelosi to reconsider her call for him to resign, citing polls showing his constituents wanted him to stay. "Consider those rose petals to let you go graciously," Pelosi told him, according to the aide.

After talking with his wife, who returned from an overseas work trip with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, Weiner called Democratic leaders on Wednesday to tell them he would resign, congressional aides said.

At his news conference, he apologized to his wife and thanked her for standing by him.

Democrats are expected to retain Weiner's House seat, which will be filled in a special election.

Ironically, for someone who had successfully used social media such as Twitter and Facebook to boost his political brand, Weiner's fall was prompted when he accidentally posted publicly via Twitter a close-up of his bulging underpants.

Weiner denied for more than a week that he sent a photo of himself in boxer briefs to a woman in Seattle on May 28, claiming his Twitter account had been hacked. But on June 6, he admitted he had lied and had inappropriate exchanges with six women, some after he was married.

Since then, more lewd pictures of Weiner have surfaced, making him daily fodder for tabloids and late-night comedians.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Weiner's fall "a lost opportunity" that was "tragic."

(Writing by Mark Egan; Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Richard Cowan, Thomas Ferraro, JoAnne Allen, Daniel Trotta and Paula Rogo; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Dance the night away with Red FM

Posted: 17 Jun 2011 01:20 AM PDT

GET ready to work the dance floor as Red FM's Remix Club Tour hits GOSH Club Kuala Lumpur at the Asian Heritage Row on June 25. With music that will keep you on your feet all night long, DJ Razz plays the top club songs, electronic dance tracks and dance anthem remixes.

Every Saturday from 11pm to 1am, Red FM Remix plays a mixture of irresistible dance music on air. Evolving into the Red FM Remix Club Tour, DJ Razz and guest DVJ G-Mix have been hopping around the club circuit to spin their distinctive music mix at well-known clubs in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Baru.

DJ Razz will play an addictive blend of hip hop to house vibes accompanied by hypnotic, head turning visuals from DVJ G-Mix with his unique skills of "visualising sounds". Together, they flood the dance floors with a dazzling showmanship of music and sound.

Pick up four passes to this exciting party by listening out for the cue to enter from June 20 till 24. The passes will be given out on Red FM's Eleven 2 Three With Lexie (Mondays to Fridays, 11am – 3pm) and Red FM's Evening With Arnold (Mondays to Fridays, 7pm – 10pm).

In the meantime, work the airwaves with Red FM's Quick Workout and you may just win a prize as well as burn off some "calories".

Work out the Red FM way on Red FM's Eleven 2 Three and flex your brain muscles with Lexie as she fires off questions to test your brain power. With each question you get right, you burn off a certain amount of "calories" and you may just get rewarded with a prize for the right amount burnt. Tune in next week and win body treatment vouchers from Mary Chia, courtesy of

If that's not enough to get you all worked up, add some sizzle to your day with Red FM's Red Hot Goss. Lexie provides you with the latest and juiciest news on your favourite celebrities. Get the inside scoop on the glamorous and fast paced world of entertainment where something is always happening. You can find out what's happening in the world of music, get the updates on the latest celebrity antics or be in the know of all things pertaining to the newest movies to hit the screens.

For more details, visit and join the Red FM (Malaysia) Facebook group. You can also follow us on Twitter (@iloveredfm).

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

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'America's Most Wanted' ending run on Fox, but John Walsh isn't done

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 07:06 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): This week marks the final weekly airing of "America's Most Wanted" on the Fox network after 23 years and 1,153 fugitives nabbed.

"I don't think it's hit me yet," said John Walsh, the host and driving force of what he turned into a nationwide crime watch. "Saturday when I see the last show - that's gonna be painful."

But that broadcast is billed as the season finale - not the series conclusion - on the "AMW" website.

Not surprisingly, this is the same attitude voiced by Walsh.

"I'm fighting hard to keep this franchise going," he said. "It's a television show that gets ratings AND saves lives, and we'll find somewhere to keep going. We're not done."

Speaking by phone Thursday morning, he had just arrived back in Washington from Brazil. There, he was hunting for a pedophile who has been hiding out in Rio de Janeiro for 14 years.

"He's a fake minister who molested tons of boys in Florida," Walsh said. "I was working with Brazilian police, and I think I'll get this guy."

The case will be spotlighted on Saturday's show, and, as he spoke, Walsh was headed to "AMW" headquarters to supervise editing the segment.

He said he will make some parting remarks at the end of the show, with the promise, "We're going to land somewhere else."

And after that?

"I'm so used to doing what I've done every day for 23 years that I'm still trying to sort it all out," he said. "But I have many, many offers, a long list I've got to wade through and see where we go from here."

One possibility, he said, is News Corp. sibling Fox News Channel, which that network confirms.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes "has had preliminary discussions with John Walsh and he's a fan of 'America's Most Wanted,"' said Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti, "but nothing has been decided."

Walsh said he hopes to have a deal in place, probably with a cable network, within two weeks.

This, of course, is the man who mounted a crime-busting crusade in the aftermath of the abduction and murder of his 6-year-old son Adam in 1981. He became an outspoken advocate for tougher laws against sex offenders, more cooperation among law enforcement agencies, and citizen involvement in flushing out fugitives.

His TV show premiered in April 1988 on the fledgling Fox network and, little more than a year later, it was the first-ever Fox program to rank first in viewership in its time slot. It's been a fixture on the network ever since, and during the 2010-11 season, was seen by an audience averaging 5 million viewers.

So last month Walsh, 65, was "in shock," he said, on getting the news that "AMW" had been canceled. The show is too expensive to produce, Fox entertainment head Kevin Reilly explained. The network is planning to air weekly repeats of its prime-time entertainment series in the Saturday slot "AMW" has held for so long.

"AMW" isn't completely disappearing from the network. There will be four, two-hour specials aired next season, Reilly said in making the announcement in May.

So far, Walsh said, there have been no discussions with Fox about how and when the specials will be produced. And they won't preserve the current "AMW" operation, with its 70-plus staff.

"I've got hotline operators, website guys, reporters, writers, graphic artists, engineers - we're a full-blown news operation," Walsh said. "One of the most painful things I've got to do is cut everybody loose. Now my first priority is to be sure Fox treats these people fairly, which I think they will."

Besides offering "AMW" employees what Walsh calls a "really fair" severance package, Fox has agreed to maintain the telephone hotline and website, which are both essential for receiving tips on fugitives from the public.

Then Walsh hopes "AMW" will soon be settled in a new TV home.

"It's very simple," he said. "I want to catch bad guys and find missing children - and we're not done."

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Noah Wyle stars in a drama about an alien invasion

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 07:01 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): These days, Noah Wyle occupies a world devastated by alien invaders.

On his new TNT sci-fi series "Falling Skies," he plays Tom Mason, a Boston University history professor whose wife was killed and one of his three sons taken captive in the alien attack.

Tom is second-in-command of a ragtag regiment of survivors in a ravaged Boston suburb. The odds against them seem insurmountable. But they are fighting back. In his new role, Wyle is facing even more challenges than, years ago, in that Chicago emergency room.

On "Falling Skies" (which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT) there are threats aplenty from the mysterious, multi-legged aliens (nicknamed "skitters" by the humans) and the killing-machine robots they sic on the Earthlings.

"But there are larger themes," Wyle says. "Beyond surviving, the human characters will need to create the template for the next civilization, which probably won't even be realized in their own lifetimes."

In short, Tom Mason is a history professor helping create new history by looking to the past.

"History is full of inferior forces creating so much trouble that the invading army leaves," Tom tries to reassure his comrades as he reels off several encouraging examples, including a modern case: "Red Socks, Yankees, '04."

Wyle says he wasn't looking to do another series and, while he isn't the first TV star to have said that, he makes it sound convincing. After all, his 11-year weekly hitch as Dr. John Carter on NBC's "ER," which ended in 2005, established him as a mainstay of the last blockbuster drama viewers may ever see. What follow-up series could measure up?

"After 'ER,' I wanted to be a stay-at-home dad for a while," Wyle says.

(Divorced last year, he has a son, Owen, now 8, and a 5-year-old daughter, Auden.) "The game plan, such as it was, was to stay away from episodic television, and try to rebuild my career in a post-'ER' world."

But the persistence of TNT (for which Wyle made three films in the "Librarian" adventure franchise) wore him down with offers for pilot deals, he says. So a couple of years ago, he sought out the advice of a trusted counselor. He presented his son, Owen, with three series options: He could be a lawyer or a police detective or an alien fighter.

Owen shot him a you're-kidding-me look, Wyle recalls. The choice was obvious: An alien fighter Wyle would be.

The impact of his decision? "To get this kind of street credibility with my son - it's huge," Wyle says with a smile.

"But with the birth of my kids, I started to really look at my career through their eyes more than my own," he declares. "So that does dictate choice, steering me toward certain things and away from other things."

Wyle had his own reasons, too, for saying yes to "Falling Skies." He identified with Tom's devotion to his sons, and admired Tom's sense of social duty.

"And there's the grief and loss that he struggles to rebound from," Wyle adds. "These are all themes I'm interested in exploring in my own life."

Now 40, he is 6 feet and 2 inches (1.87 meters) and rangy, and retains the boyish air that first earned him heartthrob status two decades ago. He is laid-back but reflective, with those arched, guileless eyebrows that seem to certify everything he says.

Wyle's co-stars include Moon Bloodgood as a comely pediatrician who lost her only son in the attack six months earlier. Will Patton is the hard-line commander of the regiment with whom Wyle's character often clashes. And Drew Roy plays Tom's oldest son, who fights against the invaders alongside his father.

Playing Tom's 8-year-old youngest son is Maxim Knight, who "paid me the nicest compliment he could have," Wyle says. "He told his mother after we filmed a scene that ended with us embracing, 'He hugs like a dad."'

Executive producers include Steven Spielberg, Graham Yost ("Justified") and Robert Rodat, who got an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for "Saving Private Ryan" and wrote the "Falling Skies" pilot from an idea he and Spielberg co-conceived.

The series was shot last July through November in Toronto and, says Wyle, "it was physically more demanding than most of the work I've done: a lot of running and jumping and diving and rolling. I got a lot of nicks and bruises along the way."

With post-production CGI churning out hoards of virtual foes, Wyle was also faced with "fighting tennis balls at the end of a stick." But other times, he did have a material version of a skitter to confront.

"We had a guy in a suit," he says, "which presented its own difficulties: The suit was very rich in detail but apparently hadn't been constructed to allow oxygen flow." This required frequent breaks in filming for the wearer to cool off.

For Wyle, a highlight of the shoot was when Owen came to visit. There, after observing a fight scene between Dad and an alien, he volunteered some pointers.

"I asked what he thought," says Wyle, "and he goes, 'You're pulling the gun up too high. I can't see it in the frame. Hold it at shoulder level, as opposed to over your head, and it'll stay in the frame."'

Thinking back on it, Wyle laughs the laugh of a proud father.

"I followed his direction," Wyle says, "and got his seal of approval."

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The Star Online: Sports

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Freezing for Tour de France

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 05:24 PM PDT

GRENOBLE (France): Spending three minutes in a cubicle at minus 150°C is not exactly the kind of thing you dream of doing first thing in the morning, yet riders from the FDJ team will do it every day on the Tour de France.

The French cycling team have been experimenting with cryotherapy – exposure to extreme cold in a small chamber to help recovery – since last month.

I tried out the method myself on the morning of the fourth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, a preparation race before the Tour de France.

Just after breakfast, I was told to strip to my underpants and given a pair of slippers before entering a cubicle filled with liquid nitrogen that lowers the ambient temperature to minus 150°C.

I stood in the cubicle, keeping my forearms outside it to protect my hands from the cold – I could have worn gloves instead. My head was also sticking out of the top, as the body's extremities cannot stand such a low temperature.

At first I was just a bit chilly but quite rapidly the cold began to sting my skin as the temperature dropped. Despite the cold, the core temperature of the body stays stable.

Some people do not move inside the cubicle but I did, fearing I might freeze on the spot.

When my three minutes were up, I was happy to get out. With a sense of relief, I put my clothes back on, probably faster than ever before.

The FDJ riders went into the chamber every morning and every evening after a stage and will continue during the Tour, which starts on July 2.

"The method was created in the Eastern countries some 30 years ago," FDJ team doctor Gerard Guillaume told Reuters.

"It is used in rheumatology and traumatology. Those who used it would treat people and athletes recovering from accidents or crashes.

"They eventually realised that it helped the athletes recover from great efforts."

Cold is said to help recovery and reduce inflammation. In the long term, cryotherapy is also said to reinforce the immune system.

The therapy was not a performance-enhancing method, Guillaume said.

"It helps recovery, it does not help performance."

"We're actually doing the right thing. There is absolutely no performance-enhancement," said Guillau­­me. "If it works, other teams will come to it, obviously."

Another French team, AG2R-La Mondiale, have also started to use cryotherapy.

"It helps recovery and the fight against pain after effort. Then, the technique can be implemented over the long term since the cold can improve the immune system," said team doctor Eric Bouvat.

"In our team we use it after the stages, but also in the morning because the cold stimulates the endocrinal system."

Last week's Criterium du Dauphine marked the first time the FDJ riders had used cryotherapy on a race.

Every morning, the suppliers brought in 200 litres of liquid nitrogen, but the capacity will be brought up to 600 litres a day.

"We need to have more autonomy on a three-week race like the Tour to avoid any mishap," said Guillaume.

The riders themselves have accepted the therapy.

"At first, it hurts a bit, especially the legs. It's like having a pack of ice around your legs, which is not the best feeling," said FDJ team leader Sandy Casar.

"I'm okay with this, it's better than an iced bath as it's a dry cold," his team-mate Arnold Jeannesson said after spending his three minutes without moving in the freezing cubicle.

He was followed by Francis Mourey, who does not mind the cold either.

"Really, it's fine. I don't even feel the need to move inside the cubicle. It's good for my sleep, too," he said. — Reuters

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Scott pins hopes on his Tiger

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 05:23 PM PDT

Australian Adam Scott is banking on the indirect help of Tiger Woods to improve his own mediocre US Open record at Congressional Country Club.

Three-time winner Woods pulled out of the tournament last week because of injuries to his left knee and Achilles tendon and Scott has recruited the former world number one's caddie, Steve Williams, for the year's second major.

"It's been great," Scott said on a sun-splashed on Wednesday at Congressional while preparing for the opening round.

"We've known each other for a long time and he's obviously one of the best caddies out here. I'm sure everything's going to go well."

New Zealander Williams, who has previously caddied for players such as Australian Greg Norman and American Raymond Floyd, was on Woods's bag for 13 of his 14 major victories.

"It's nice to have an experienced man there next to me like I've always had," said Scott, who split with veteran caddie Tony Navarro after the PGA Tour's Players Championship last month.

"Hopefully I can get Steve in the position that he's used to in these things (majors) and then his real talent will come out."

A seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, Scott has mainly struggled at the US Open where he has missed five cuts in nine career starts.

He recorded his best finish with a tie for 21st at Winged Foot in 2006 but believes he is in good shape for Congressional this week.

"My preparations have gone well so I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning," said the 30-year-old Australian. "I've got a good handle to the course now so I am just excited to get this week under way."

Scott has produced a varied bag of form this season, mixing three missed cuts with two top-10s in nine PGA Tour starts.

However, the world number 21 will take a great deal of confidence from his tie for second at the Masters in April, his best finish in the opening major of the year.

"Augusta was obviously a great week," Scott recalled with a smile. "It was really nice to be in the mix late on Sunday afternoon, and it was nice to play well in that situation.

"I felt I did everything I could and I was simply outplayed at the end. But I know that I can take positives out of that in how I performed late on Sunday. I was very happy with that."

Scott is scheduled to tee off with Swede Robert Karlsson and long-hitting American Bubba Watson in the opening round. — Reuters

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Chun Seang’s fate in the balance for walking out on BAM again

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 05:22 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have allowed women's singles shuttler Julia Wong to walk out from the national team without any punishment while the fate of elite men's singles shuttler Tan Chun Seang hangs in the balance.

Yesterday, BAM secretary Ng Chin Chai confirmed that Julia had left the national team while Chun Seang's status was pending following his decision to leave last month.

This is the second time that the 24-year-old Chun Seang has voiced his intention to leave the national team.

He walked out on the BAM in 2009 and the national body imposed a two-year ban on him – the first time ever that the BAM had taken a strong stance over their national players.

The BAM's contention for doing that was because they felt that Chun Seang was still an asset to the nation. As such, they did not want him or any of their players to leave at their whim and fancy – especially after investing so much time and money on their development.

Chun Seang was unable to compete in any international tournament as an independent player. He eventually returned to BAM's fold.

But, since his return, nothing much has changed for Chun Seang as far as his badminton career is concerned.

He is still bothered by a knee injury and has failed to make any headway in the national team.

In fact, his injury has prevented him from becoming an effective sparring partner for world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.

To make matters worse, he has been missing from training in the last few days.

Chin Chai said that the BAM's exco would decide on Chun Seang's case during their meeting on July 1.

"Chun Seang has informed us of his intention to leave. Previously we imposed a ban on him.

"This time, the circumstances are different. He is no longer in his best condition. The exco will decide whether to let him leave without any penalties," said Chin Chai.

"BAM do not have a blanket rule on this matter (on imposing bans on players leaving the national team) but we will look at it case by case. The exco will decide on this."

If Chun Seang leaves, the Malaysian singles elite squad will only be left with Chong Wei, Chong Wei Feng, Liew Daren and Chan Kwong Beng.

As for Julia, Chin Chai said she leaves with their blessing.

"It is clear that Julia is unable to cope after going through the knee surgery. She is unable to make a strong comeback and we accepted her decision to leave the national team," he said.

Julia has enjoyed mixed fortunes in her seven years with the national team.

"I wish to continue but it is frustrating when I cannot give my best due to my knee injury. Currently, I am coaching players at a club. I hope to make a comeback one day," said Julia, whose most memorable outing was finishing as runner-up to Saina Nehwal of India in the Philippines Open in 2009.

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The Star Online: Business

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Oil price stays around a four-month low

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 06:07 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Oil stayed near a four-month low on Thursday as investors continued to worry about the European financial crisis.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose 14 cents to settle at $94.95 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London Brent crude rose $1.01 to settle at $114.02 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Oil dropped more than 4 percent on Wednesday as Greece's financial troubles deepened. And worries about Europe's economy continued on Thursday. The fear is that a Greek default on its debt could seriously impact other European nations with debt problems, like Spain, Portugal and Ireland. Europe consumes about 18 percent of the world's oil, and oil demand would likely drop if Europe's economy stalls.

"I don't think anyone is convinced this is going to go away overnight," PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn said. At the very least "the demand outlook is really murky," he said.

Analyst and trader Stephen Schork said that the U.S. economy could struggle to grow if gasoline stays above $3.50 per gallon (92 cents a liter) and Brent crude climbs above $115 per barrel.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency said Thursday that the world still has a cushion of surplus oil. It challenged assertions by investment bank Goldman Sachs that OPEC is producing about as much oil as possible. IEA said Saudi Arabia and other countries could crank up output by more than 4 million barrels per day. The Paris-based groups added that demand should rise this year to 89.3 million barrels per day, up 120,000 barrels per day from previous estimates.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said the nation's natural gas supplies grew by 69 billion cubic feet last week. The increase was within analysts' expectations. Levels are lower than average for this time of year.

Natural gas lost 16.5 cents, about 3.6 percent, to settle at $4.412 per 1,000 cubic feet on the Nymex.

In other Nymex trading for July contracts, heating oil added 1.9 cents to $3.0038 per gallon and gasoline futures gained 2.59 cents to settle at $2.9494 per gallon.

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Pandora's stock retreats to below IPO price

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 06:04 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Buyer's remorse already may be setting in for some investors in Internet radio station Pandora Media Inc.

After intense demand drove up the price for Pandora's initial public offering of stock, the shares lost nearly a quarter of their value their second day of trading.

Thursday's harsh reversal of fortune left Pandora's stock below its IPO price of $16. The shares fell $4.16, or 24 percent, to close at $13.26.

The downturn indicates the earlier euphoria about Pandora Media may have been misguided. The excitement enabled Pandora Media's IPO to sell for twice as much as an $8 target price set two weeks ago.

The misgivings are bad news for investors who paid as much as $26 on Pandora's first day of trading.

But the circumspection is encouraging for those worried about an investment bubble forming around promising Internet services that have attracted large audiences.

Pandora boasts 94 million users looking for a different kind of radio station. The company, based in Oakland, California, streams music over high-speed Internet connections and relies on computer formulas to tailor individual songs for listeners.

The approach hasn't been profitable yet, one reason some analysts thought Pandora had been overvalued in its IPO. The company has lost a total of $92 million during its 11-year history. The problem: Pandora's main source of revenue, advertising, hasn't been growing fast enough to cover the royalties for playing music.

Pandora's IPO came less than a month after the stock market debut of online professional networking service LinkedIn Corp. evoked memories of the dot-com boom in the late 1990s.

LinkedIn's shares more than doubled on their first day of trading to give the company a market value of $9 billion. The stock has plunged nearly 28 percent since then, although it remains well above LinkedIn's IPO price of $45. LinkedIn shares shed $6.35, or 8.5 percent, Thursday to close at $68.27.

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US stocks higher on home building, jobs reports

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 06:03 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Better-than-expected reports on home building and jobs pushed two of the three major stock indexes higher Thursday. The broader market ended mixed.

The pace of new home construction quickened last month and the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week to 414,000, more of an improvement than economists expected. Weekly applications for unemployment have been over 400,000 since April, a rate that suggests job growth is still slow.

Worries that Greece's debt troubles could spread continued to weigh on financial markets. The dollar and U.S government bonds rose as traders moved money into safer investments.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 64.25 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 11,961.52. The Dow is now slightly higher for the week.

The S&P 500 rose 2.22, or 0.2 percent, to 1,267.64. The Nasdaq composite lost 7.76, or 0.3 percent, to 2,623.70. The two are less than 1 percent lower this week.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.92 percent, the lowest since November, from 2.97 percent late Wednesday. Bond yields fall when prices rise.

Home Depot Inc. rose 1.8 percent following the better than expected report on home construction and an upgrade by analysts.

Kroger Co. rose 4.5 percent after the supermarket chain's earnings rose as shoppers paid more for groceries and gas. Winnebago Industries Inc. tumbled 20 percent after the motor home company said profits sank nearly 80 percent in its last quarter.

Not all the economic news was positive. A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that manufacturing slowed in that region, one day after a similar report found that manufacturing was slowing in the New York area. A series of weaker economic indicators over the past two months have led some analysts to trim their expectations for the year.

Investors are now starting to expect negative economic news, said Uri Landesdman, president of Platinum Partners, an investment manager in New York. That dulls the impact of each downward sign, he said.

"There's still a feeling out there that even though economic data has been incrementally terrible, businesses are still cooking," Landesman said. He also cautioned that the market could continue to slide until the next batch of corporate earnings reports, which start to come out in mid-July.

Overseas markets dipped for a second day because of fears that Greece will be forced to default on its bonds, an event that could trigger another financial crisis. The Euro Stoxx 50, an index of blue chip companies in countries that use the euro, fell 0.5 percent. Benchmark indexes in Japan and China each closed with losses of more than 1.5 percent.

U.S. stocks have fallen for six straight weeks because of rising concerns that the economy isn't as strong as previously thought. If the S&P 500 closes down this week, it would mark the longest losing streak since the index dropped for eight straight weeks in early 2001 as the dot-com bubble was imploding.

High gas prices and a recession in Japan following its earthquake and nuclear disaster have combined to slow business and consumer spending. The S&P index is down nearly 7 percent since hitting its high for the year on April 29.

Falling stocks outpaced rising ones by a small margin on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated trading volume was 4.1 billion shares.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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A growing relationship

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 01:42 AM PDT

HOLLYWOOD'S new top lobbyist avoided tough issues earlier this week in his first speech in China, one of the industry's most coveted yet most inaccessible markets, instead lauding Beijing's progress in combating piracy and launching foreign co-productions.

Former US Senator Chris Dodd is visiting China for the first time since taking over in March as chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America.

However, in his first speech at the Shanghai International Film Festival, Dodd didn't mention the issues that have frustrated Hollywood studios operating in China for years: a de facto quota of 20 foreign blockbusters a year and the inability to distribute their own movies in the country.

Dodd took a diplomatic approach, heaping praise on the tremendous strides the Chinese film industry has made in domestic productions and working with foreign studios.

"In the last 10 years, we have seen growth and development that allows me to say here this morning that the Chinese film industry has fully matured. So too has the relationship between the American film industry and Chinese filmmakers, Chinese audiences and even the Chinese government," he said.

Dodd paid tribute to recent Chinese productions, naming the Jiang Wen political satire Let The Bullets Fly, the Tsui Hark fantasy epic Detective Dee: Mystery Of The Phantom Flame and Chinese actress-director Xu Jinglei's romantic comedy Go Lala Go!

"All the ingredients are there for China's film industry to become a major, major, major player on the world stage, just as China has always been a major player on the world cultural stage," he said.

The former senator also noted recent high-profile Hollywood-China co-productions like The Forbidden Kingdom, which co-starred Jackie Chan and Jet Li, The Karate Kid remake starring Chan and Jaden Smith, and The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, which paired Li and Brendan Fraser.

"These are world-class pictures that appeal to Chinese audiences, American audiences and audiences all across the globe," he said.

But Dodd said he will "speak very candidly, as friends do and must," in upcoming talks with Chinese officials in Beijing. "I will not ignore the concerns that Hollywood has raised for years," he said without identifying the concerns, adding, "but I will not fail as well to acknowledge and indeed celebrate, if you will, the progress we have made," including Chinese efforts in recent months to curb movie piracy.

Dodd said that as a senator, he supported closer economic ties between the United States and China, noting he backed China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

The comment was ironic given that some Hollywood executives may see China as flouting WTO rules.

Beijing failed to meet a March deadline to comply with a WTO ruling urging the Chinese government to let foreign studios distribute their own films in the country.

The MPAA said in a statement in March that it was "disappointed" by the missed deadline, adding that it hoped American and Chinese officials can work toward compliance quickly.

Dodd's comments also contrasted to a more toughly worded speech by one of his constituents, Rupert Murdoch, at the Shanghai festival on Sunday.

Murdoch, who controls Hollywood studio Fox, said limited access to the Chinese market undermines its potential and "presents significant challenges."

Fox is keen to replicate the success in China of its 3D sci-fi release Avatar, which brought in US$204mil (RM618mil) in the country – a figure second only to US revenues. – AP

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Tribute to China

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 01:41 AM PDT

Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy honours his Shanghai roots in a new film.

MIKE Medavoy walked the red carpet, mingled with Chinese studio executives and attended industry seminars. But unlike other Hollywood producers pressing the flesh at the Shanghai International Film Festival, he isn't just shopping for projects in what is fast becoming America's hottest foreign movie market.

For the producer who worked on films like Rocky, Apocalypse Now and The Terminator, the festival is a homecoming of sorts. Medavoy was born in Shanghai in 1941 to Russian-Jewish parents and lived there for six years before moving with his family to Chile and then the United States. His grandfather moved to Shanghai to avoid the pogroms of imperial Russia.

And now the veteran producer has found the perfect project to honor his Chinese roots – an adaptation of a Chinese love story set against World War II-era Shanghai, where many European Jews sought refuge from persecution.

Medavoy announced on Monday that he and partner Shanghai Film Group will turn Chinese author Bei La's The Cursed Piano into a feature film and shoot an accompanying six-hour TV miniseries exploring the Jewish experience in Shanghai, based on the Daniella Kuhn story Tears Of The Sparrow.

"I feel a great deal of responsibility to get this story told," Medavoy said.

"My fear of course is based on the fact that I have to measure up not only to the standards that these gentlemen have set for the project," he said, referring to his Chinese partners, "but I also have to measure up to my own standards and the standards my parents brought to me when they decided to have me born here."

Medavoy said he hoped to complete the project while his 90-year-old mother is still alive.

He received a vote of confidence from Bei. "I think he will create something outstanding by pouring in his own emotions and his parents' emotions," Bei said.

Medavoy shared vignettes from his family history. He said his father became a car mechanic in Shanghai at age 12 before shifting to a telephone company. When the Medavoy family moved to Chile, his employment options were limited because he didn't speak Spanish – but he could fall back on the car repair skills he had picked up in Shanghai.

Medavoy's Shanghai heritage has cropped up quite a few times since the festival kicked off on Saturday.

He proudly told a red carpet interviewer at the opening ceremony that he was born in Shanghai.

Speaking at a panel discussion on film finance on Sunday, he described his parents' emotional return to Shanghai 18 years ago, when they travelled with him to the inaugural Shanghai International Film Festival.

"As soon as I got down (from the plane) and my father started walking out of the Shanghai airport, he started to cry," Medavoy said.

Asked why he was so upset, his father responded, "I'm crying because this is the place that saved our lives. I don't think any of us would have existed without the friendship of the Chinese people during the war."

The Cursed Piano is not Medavoy's first Shanghai-related project. He also developed the script for the 2010 film Shanghai, a World War II-era thriller starring John Cusack, Chow Yun-fat, Gong Li and Ken Watanabe, but later sold it to fellow American producer Harvey Weinstein.

Sommersby and The Human Stain screenwriter Nicholas Meyer is to pen the Cursed Piano script. – AP

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Penguins and priorities

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 01:41 AM PDT

In his latest film, Jim Carrey embraces that which scares other actors – children and animals.

THERE are no two ways about it – when you put Jim Carrey and animals together in a film, something magical happens. A case in point are the Ace Ventura films – no matter how many times one sees them, watching Carrey and the animals all over again will still put a smile on one's face.

Thus, it's great that Carrey is starring in Mr Popper's Penguins, playing a guy who inherits six penguins that turn his world upside down.

Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls and Freaky Friday), the film is loosely based on a 1938 children's book by Richard and Florence Atwater. It revolves around Thom Popper (Carrey) who is so intent on building a successful career that he'd rather work 24/7 than spend time with his wife and two children.

As it happens, his personality is no different from that of his own father – who kept leaving Thom as a child to travel around the world. Souvenirs were their only connection. Well, the half a dozen penguins from Antarctica were his father's final gift from his travels.

In an interview transcript provided by Twentieth Century Fox, Carrey admitted it was the fact that he would be working with real penguins that sealed the deal for him.

He said: "I honestly did the picture because I love penguins and I am not kidding. When I looked at the script I said: 'Yes I've got to do the penguin movie.'

"First of all, I am a sucker for anything that touches the heart and secondly the penguins just resonate in a world where all of us are cynical and we don't believe in anything anymore. The world is coming apart at the seams, at least it appears that way on the news, and this kind of movie cuts through it all and takes us back to the heart."

Although it wasn't easy working with these majestic animals – they are, apparently, very difficult to train – once Carrey learned that all they want is fish, he'd have fish in his pant legs, shoes and pockets at all times so they'd follow him.

According to him, he'd rather stink like a fish and have the chance of working with real penguins instead of pretending to be with computer-generated ones.

Nonetheless, he conceded, computer-generated penguins are incorporated into the film in some scenes because there is just no way to plan what is going to happen with real penguins as everything they do is so spontaneous.

Carrey described an especially crazy moment filming with the penguins. "There is one scene at the dinner table when they were absolute maniacs 'mrraaaa' (he makes penguin noises). They bit me mercilessly, actually, but I did not mind. I was constantly feeding them. I had to make them go to different spots when they would be on camera and my fingers were bloodied a bit here and there. They weren't unfriendly; they just don't like to be handled. But this is the thing, I am not afraid to work with animals.

"A lot of people say, 'don't work with children and animals'. I really do not worry about it because I think it's wonderful. I love capturing the spark of innocence and who better than animals and children to bring out that spark? So I welcome it and I love the chaos of it."

Mr Popper's Penguins was filmed in New York during one of its worst winters. This worked to the advantage of the film since penguins need the cold weather. Even when the production moved indoors, the temperature was kept well below zero to ensure the penguins were comfortable.

"It is so important to keep them comfortable because when they start to do this (he makes crazy noises), it means you have to turn down the temperature. Humans really don't matter at that point because you can't hurt the penguins. If you do, it is straight to hell. By the way, no penguins were harmed in the making of this film."

Carrey started out at the age of three as the comic relief at home – making his mother laugh whenever she was feeling down. That turned out to be a life-long calling for Carrey, only on a larger scale.

He began touring as a stand-up comic when he was just 15. Then in 1990, he became a regular cast of the TV show In Living Color. Retaining that job for a decade, Carrey made his feature debut in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in 1994. The 49-year-old went on to create some of the big screen's most memorable characters in films like The Mask, Dumb And Dumber, Liar Liar, Man On The Moon, The Truman Show, Bruce Almighty and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

"My goals involve approaching things a little bit differently and to be as authentic as I can. Even if I am being over the top or crazy, I want to do something different and original.

"The focus for me has always been directed towards the person in the seat. There is nothing that makes me happier than when someone says, 'I watched your movie The Mask 300 times when I was kid.' I look forward to the time when I am 70 or 80 years old and there will be people coming up to me going 'It was you, dude'. That's an amazing feeling."

When asked if he enjoys playing someone like Popper, who starts out not so likeable, he answered: "Well I am this guy, or I have been this guy in my life at different times, as many of us have, putting our eggs into the wrong basket, looking and focusing on the wrong things.

"I have been down the wrong road before and have valued the wrong things. And I have experienced life happening to me and have had it spin me around to the point where there was nothing left except what was real. And that is what the movie is about; it's about a man being spun around when he is on the wrong track."

He added: "The movie is about abandonment and the poor choices we make because of it, and I think we are all dealing with that. Practically every movie I see is about that on some level. The film is about discovering what matters and coming to an epiphany about love, and realising what love and family are worth.

"We can beat our heads against the wall and try to strive in every area of our lives and accomplish great things, but if our family isn't intact and our kids are running around not knowing how much we love them, what is it all worth?"

Mr Popper's Penguins waddles into local cinemas on July 7.

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The Star Online: Nation

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New Myvi launched, priced from RM43,900 to RM57,400

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 06:50 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: After five consecutive years as the country's best selling car, the Perodua Myvi five-door hatchback has been replaced by a new model that promises better safety, fuel efficiency and a string of new enhancements.

Launched by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin here Thursday night, the new Myvi is available in six variants and priced between RM43,900 and RM57,400 - some RM500 to RM700 more than the previous model.

While still recognisably a Myvi, the new car has a more rounded front end and is 5mm lower to improve its aerodynamics.

Buyers can choose from three grades of Standard, Premium and Elegance, and transmission type of four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual.

While maintaining almost the same size as the outgoing model, the latest Myvi now includes electric power steering, projector headlamps and a two-tone dashboard.

In keeping with current automotive trends, the new Myvi includes upgraded safety features.

Where previously only the more expensive variants featured two front airbags, this item is now included across the range.

Also standard are Isofix mounting points for child seats and a three-point seatbelt for the rear centre passenger.

Premium and Elegance grades, however, get additional safety equipment such as anti-lock braking system with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.

Audio system for the Standard grade Myvi is the radio/CD type with MP3/WMA but the Premium grade features additional USB and Bluetooth support. The Elegance gets a multimedia system that comes with satellite navigation.

The 1.3-litre engine is derived from the older Myvi model but has been retuned to get an extra 4bhp for a total of 90bhp promising improved performance.

Perodua managing director Datuk Aminar Rashid Salleh said the new car's improved aerodynamics resulted in better fuel economy, something consumers are looking for in view of rising fuel prices.

"Compared with the old automatic Myvi which can go 13.5km on a litre of petrol, the new automatic model can go 14.6km on the same amount of fuel," he said.

The original Myvi was launched in May 2005 and some 484,000 units were sold until April. During its six-year run, the model garnered 11 awards.

The new Myvi is sold in ebony black, medallion grey, glittering silver, pearl white, ivory white and a new colour, mystical purple.

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Umno Youth to march on July 9 for preserving country's democratic system

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 04:15 AM PDT

Published: Thursday June 16, 2011 MYT 7:13:00 PM
Updated: Thursday June 16, 2011 MYT 7:15:51 PM

PETALING JAYA: Umno Youth will organise a march in Kuala Lumpur on July 9, the same day as Bersih's rally, to hand over a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, said Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said they would hand over the memorandum calling for the democratic system in the country to be preserved and suggestions to improve on the election process.

Khairy alleged that many voters were moved by the Opposition from its winning parliamentary constituencies to losing constituencies.

He also said he hoped to get support from the other youth divisions of component parties and expected tens of thousands to join Umno Youth.

On concerns about clashes with Bersih, he said this was not the intention, but that the voice of the people did not belong only to the Opposition.

Several non-governmental organisations have pledged support for the march, he added.

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PM denies Govt not aggressively implementing NEM

Posted: 16 Jun 2011 04:05 AM PDT

Published: Thursday June 16, 2011 MYT 7:06:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has refuted allegations that the Government was only pushing the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) which is investment-based, but not the New Economic Model(NEM).

He said the report on the NEM titled 'Last Part: Strategic Policy' had given a wider and detailed explanation on the measures taken under the Strategic Reform Initiatives (SRI).

He said to discuss the action plans for the SRI towards attaining the NEM's goals, a total of six laboratories were held that deliberated on 37 of 51 NEM policies.

"These labs were then divided into smaller ones to translate the policies into concrete action plans.

"Also taken into consideration were initiatives taken under the 10Malaysia Plan. The findings of the SRI labs were also deliberated by the Cabinet," he said in his written reply to Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR-Lembah Pantai) in the Dewan Rakyat here Thursday.

Najib also said that the Finance Ministry, in collaboration with the World Bank, was carrying a study on public spending to ensure value for money and prevent leakage.

"One of the features is outcome-based budgeting (OBB)," he said, adding that this would result in prudent spending, avoid overlapping and prioritise needs.

The outcomes of the study would be used in formatting the 2012 budget, he added. - Bernama

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