Rabu, 22 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Syrian troops deploy on road to Turkish border

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 08:50 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian troops have deployed on a main road leading from the commercial hub of Aleppo to Turkey as protests expand to border regions, residents said, while Ankara grows increasingly critical of President Bashar al-Assad's military crackdown.

On the 100th day of an uprising against Assad's autocratic rule, soldiers and secret police backed by armoured vehicles set up road blocks on Wednesday along the road, a major route for container traffic from Europe to the Middle East, and arrested tens of people in the Heitan area north of Aleppo, Syria's second city, residents said.

The armoured personnel carriers reached the area of Deir al-Jamal, 25 km (15 miles) from the Turkish border, they added.

"The regime is trying to pre-empt unrest in Aleppo by cutting off logistics with Turkey. A lot of people here use Turkish mobile phone networks to escape Syrian spying on their calls and have family links with Turkey, there are also many old smuggling routes that people could use to flee," one of the residents, a physician, told Reuters by telephone.

Northern regions bordering Turkey have seen growing protests demanding political freedoms and an end to 41 years of Assad family rule, following military assaults on towns and villages in the Jisr al-Shughour region of Idlib province to the west of Aleppo that have sent over 10,000 refugees fleeing to Turkey.

Central neighbourhoods of Aleppo, a largely Sunni city with a significant minority population, has been largely free of protest, in part due to a heavy security presence and a continuing alliance between Sunni business families and Syria's ruling Alawite hierarchy.

But activists said security forces killed one protester in Aleppo on Friday and arrested 218 students at Aleppo University, scene of now daily protests, in the last three days.

In Idlib, rights groups say Syrian security forces have killed more than 130 civilians and arrested 2,000 in a scorched earth campaign to crush dissent in the province.

The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees said that since June 7, some 500-1,500 people have fled across Syria's 840 km (520 mile) border with Turkey daily.

A country of 20 million, Syria is largely Sunni, and the protests have been biggest in mostly Sunni rural areas and towns and cities, as opposed to mixed areas.

However, analysts say the risks are high that Syria, an ally of Iran and Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah guerrillas and with a sectarian mix of Sunni, Kurdish, Alawite and Christians, could slip into war.

Sunni Turkey has also become increasingly critical of the Syrian president, after previously backing him in his drive to seek peace with Israel and improve relations with the United States, while Assad opened the Syrian market to Turkish goods.

Turkey had warned Assad against repeating mass killings in cities witnessed during the rule of his father in the 1980s. A senior Turkish official said on Sunday that Assad had less than a week to start implementing long-promised political reforms before foreign intervention began, without elaborating.

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on Wednesday played down any possibility of international intervention against his country. He asked Turkey to reconsider its response to a speech this week by Assad in which Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Assad's promises of reforms were not enough.

In his third speech since the start of the uprising, in which rights groups say 1,300 civilians have been killed, Assad promised reforms but these were seen by opponents and world leaders as too little, too late and too vague.

Assad issued an amnesty the next day, which human rights lawyers said covered mainly drug dealers, tax evaders and thieves across Syria.

Political prisoners, who were not included in the amnesty rioted at a jail in the northeastern province of Hasaka on Tuesday night after seeing criminals being set free. Police used teargas, live bullets and batons to control the prison, two residents of Hasaka said.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Afghan troop plan is political gamble for Obama

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 08:50 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's new troop drawdown plan for Afghanistan may be too slow to satisfy the growing ranks of war-weary U.S. lawmakers and too fast to sit well with military leaders.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the war in Afghanistan during a televised address from the East Room of the White House in Washington June 22, 2011. (REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool)

But Obama is gambling that a promise to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops this year and 23,000 more by the end of next summer will be enough to buy time to prevent Afghanistan from causing serious damage to his 2012 re-election prospects.

The troop reductions he unveiled in a prime-time televised speech on Wednesday night are deeper and quicker than the Pentagon sought, reflecting pressure to start laying out an endgame in a long, costly and increasingly unpopular war.

At the same time, the speed and scope of the drawdown fall short of the demands of many of Obama's own Democratic allies and a growing number of Republicans advocating a more accelerated pullout from Afghanistan.

Unease in Washington over the decade-long war has escalated amid rising worries about tight budgets and high unemployment, Americans' chief concerns and the issues likely to drive voters in the next presidential election.

Although polls show Afghanistan still registering relatively low on the the list of the U.S. electorate's priorities, Obama and his aides are taking heed of mounting skepticism about the war, which is costing the United States $110 billion a year.

A Pew Research poll released on Tuesday found a record 56 percent of Americans favored bringing the 100,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan home as quickly as possible.

By sending Americans a message he is moving to wind down the war, Obama may gain breathing room to avoid serious political repercussions as he steps up his re-election bid.

The White House is also hoping to placate liberal Democrats, a key support base for Obama, whose 2008 election victory was driven in part by his opposition to the Iraq war.

"America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home," Obama said, answering critics on both sides of the political aisle who have insisted the United States needs to put its biggest emphasis on solving problems at home.


The White House may even be banking on Obama getting a boost when voters see troops streaming home from Afghanistan next summer around the time of the Democratic National Convention in the final run-up to the November election.

Even with the withdrawal of 33,000 troops by then, the United States will still have nearly twice as many forces in Afghanistan than when Obama took office in 2009.

Obama's Afghanistan withdrawal strategy carries peril as well as promise.

The Pentagon brass had argued for a more modest initial drawdown to avert the threat of a reversal of recent gains on the ground against a Taliban-led insurgency. General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was also wary of leaving too fast and Obama's move went beyond the options he presented to the president last week.

White House advisers, led by Vice President Joe Biden, had used the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to buttress the argument the time was ripe to scale back the counterinsurgency campaign spearheaded by the 30,000 extra "surge" troops Obama ordered deployed in late 2009.

Obama's Afghanistan decision also comes at a time of rising congressional doubts about U.S. participation in the three-month-old NATO-led air war in Libya.

Reflecting discontent with his Afghanistan policy from his party's anti-war wing, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern said, "What the president needs to tell us is how -- and when -- he's going to bring all the troops home."

There is also the political risk of appearing to have overruled his commanders by failing to take their recommendation for a slower pace of withdrawal in the transition toward ending the NATO combat mission in 2014.

But Obama may feel he can afford to weather any dispute with the Pentagon brass after gaining greater credibility as commander in chief by ordering the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden last month in Pakistan.

His first chance to test how well the drawdown plan sits with the military will be on Thursday, when he visits Fort Drum in upstate New York, home to an army unit that has been among the most frequently deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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INSTANT VIEW - Obama plan for withdrawing troops for Afghanistan

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:46 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama announced a plan on Wednesday to begin withdrawing 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by year's end, followed by about 23,000 more by the end of next summer.

The following is reaction to Obama's plan:

US Army soldiers from Charlie company 4th platoon,1st brigade 3-21 infantry, patrol in the village of Chariagen in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 22 , 2011. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)


I am pleased the president recognizes that success in Afghanistan is paramount. Continuing to degrade al Qaeda's capabilities in Afghanistan and the surrounding region must take priority over any calendar dates. It's important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider troop levels and respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant. It is my hope that the President will continue to listen to our commanders on the ground as we move forward.


My sense is that the military in general was in favour of a much smaller withdrawal. Something they could have lived with was a couple thousand troops. But the fact is the conditions on the ground don't merit any sort of withdrawal -- it's not time to be pulling out a substantive amount of troops.

There's a lot that has to be done in the east and you're not out of the woods in the south yet.


I think it's also important that you send a signal to the government of Afghanistan that they are going to have to step up and take over. ... You're also balancing this against other U.S. interests. If the United States doesn't have any money, we're not going to be able to protect our interest in others areas. It's obviously going to save some money.


Despite reports that the president's decision signals a move toward a narrowly focused counterterrorism mission, the fact is nearly 70,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan after this drawdown.

Such a force is unnecessary, and a far less costly alternative is available to us. We could keep pressure on the Taliban, and deny al Qaeda a sanctuary, with perhaps as few as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. We should be moving rapidly in that direction. President Obama hasn't been, and this announcement suggests that he won't.


No rational review would commit nearly 100,000 troops and $100 billion a year to Afghanistan.

The country does not hold that level of strategic value for us, especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis and our armed forces are being strained by repeated combat deployments.


The president is right that we need to shift our strategy in Afghanistan. But a counter-terrorism strategy doesn't need 70,000 boots on the ground, any more than it needed 100,000 boots on the ground. What the president needs to tell us is how -- and when -- he's going to bring all the troops home.


With the faster drawdown that is being proposed, they (the administration) will actually save about $17 billion in 'FY12 compared to what they had requested. That will bring the war budget down by about 15 percent, so that's a significant reduction in war funding. Relative to the overall DOD (Department of Defense), it's not that much of a reduction and relative to the overall federal budget and the deficit, this does not make much of a difference.

(Compiled by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Asian markets fall on US growth concerns

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 07:02 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Markets in the Asia-Pacific region were down on continued worries over the health of the US economy and mounting inflationary pressure caused by severe weather conditions in China and India.

MAA shares still sliding

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:08 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]PETALING JAYA: Shares of MAA Holdings Bhd continued with its slump, falling 5 sen to 67.5 sen on volume of 32.63m mil shares yesterday.

Support Line

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:07 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Cepatwawasan Group, Genting Malaysia and Sarawak Cable: By By K.M. LEE

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Aoyama to replace injured Pedrosa at Dutch MotoGP

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:34 PM PDT

MADRID: Spaniard Dani Pedrosa will not be fit in time to race at the Dutch Grand Prix in Assen this weekend and will be replaced by Japan's Hiroshi Aoyama (pic), his Repsol Honda team said yesterday.

The 25-year-old broke his collarbone in a fall at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans last month and needed further surgery last week after a fragment of bone came loose.       

Earlier in the week, Pedrosa had said it was more likely he would be back for the Italian Grand Prix at the start of next month.       

Pedrosa, last season's runner up, missed his home race in Barcelona and the British Grand Prix and has dropped down to fifth in the championship standings on 61 points after six races.       

Team mate Casey Stoner leads the standings on 116 points, 18 ahead of champion Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha. Aoyama, who is seventh with 43 points, moves across from the Gresini Honda team. — Reuters

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Sharapova dreams of repeating Wimbledon triumph

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:32 PM PDT

Former champion Maria Sharapova (pic) admits winning a second Wimbledon title would be the perfect way to erase the painful memories of her injury woes.

Sharapova has struggled with a host of ailments over the last two years that caused her ranking to slip and raised questions about her ability to continue to compete for the sport's top prizes.

But the 24-year-old has always possessed a ferocious competitive spirit and that desire to get back to her best has driven the Russian to successfully overcome her injury problems.

Sharapova, who first won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004, is back up to sixth in the world rankings after a fine run to the French Open semi-finals and the fifth seed kicked off her latest campaign at the All England Club with a 6-2, 6-1 demolition of compatriot Anna Chakvetadze.

Already one of the favourites for the title, Sharapova conceded it would be a dream come true to win her first Grand Slam crown since the 2008 Australian Open.

"Of course it's important. It would be a wonderful achievement. But I'm really happy to be playing something that I really love," Sharapova said.

"Obviously I'm very fortunate to have had that feeling of holding the trophy before and knowing how good that feeling is. That's what drives you deep down inside.

"But I also think on the other hand if you want something so bad that you can't sleep over it, where is that going to get you?

"I think time will tell and you just have to be patient and work as hard as you can and give it all you have, and then the rest will take care of itself."

Sharapova's match was moved to Centre Court late in the evening on Tuesday and she gave a command performance for the crowd, who have always retained a soft spot for the Russian since her teenage triumph seven years ago.

Although former world number one Sharapova was delighted to be back on Wimbledon's famous showcourt, she was more relieved to emerged unscathed from a potentially tricky first round tie.

"It was great to be back on Centre Court, considering that I didn't play a warm-up tournament," Sharapova said. — AFP

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Australian veteran savouring impressive first round victory

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:32 PM PDT

Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt put weeks of pain and a battle for form behind him as he savoured an impressive Wimbledon victory with the words: "This is what I play for".

The 2002 champion is recovering from foot surgery and a loss of form that has seen his world ranking plunge to 130 and admitted that if it wasn't the grass court Grand Slam, he would be literally putting his feet up.

"If it wasn't Wimbledon, I wouldn't be out there. I'd be looking after my body a bit more. This is what I play for," he said.

"It's been rough, sort of a day-to-day thing. Knowing the whole time that it's not just going to disappear magically overnight. That's the hard thing. You wake up, it's pretty sore," he said of his recovering foot.

"I've had to try and block it out as much as possible and still get on with practice and doing all the right things to prepare myself as well as possible.

"I've told everyone we'll sit back and think about it after the tournament."

Hewitt saw off a gritty performance from Japan's Kei Nishikori in the first round on Tuesday, digging deep for a 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-9), 6-3 win.

The 30-year-old sunk to his knees to celebrate victory, having won only six matches all year.

"It was very satisfying, considering what I've been through, mentally and physically what I've had to go through to try and even get on the court," the former world number one said.

The victory set up a clash with Swedish fifth seed Robin Soderling, likely on one of the bigger show courts.

"I'll be up for it, that's for sure," the Adelaide right-hander said. "I'll be right come Thursday. It's going to be another tough test. He's another step up from Nishikori. Especially on this surface, he's a dangerous player.

"He's a big striker off both sides, forehand and backhand, from the baseline, and got a big serve."

Hewitt leads Soderling 3-1 in clashes between the pair, with the Swede claiming victory last time out at Cincinnati in 2010.

"It was an extremely tight match in three sets," Hewitt recalled. "I've got to go out there and play my game, obviously try to dictate play as much as possible.

"Then again, I'm going to have to return and move extremely well to put him under some kind of pressure. He's the guy that wants to be playing on his terms and trying to dictate me around. So it will be a good match-up." — AFP

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

House arrest not a downside for Lohan

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 04:46 AM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): Being under house arrest seems to have an upside for Lindsay Lohan.

The 24-year-old actress says that since being confined to her 3,000-square-foot home in Venice Beach, California, she's caught up on movies and TV shows, stayed out of the public eye and, most important, had time to finish decorating her house and patio.

"I probably wouldn't have done it had I not been home," Lohan says in an interview in Life & Style magazine, on newsstands Friday.

Lohan is serving house arrest on a 120-day jail sentence for violating her probation in a 2007 drunken driving case by taking a necklace without permission from a jewellery store in January.

She began serving her sentence last month, and is expected to serve about 35 days. Lohan says that while not ideal, she treasures these moments alone in her home.

"There are so many things you can do," she says. "It's a nice way to just be reading scripts and focusing on what I'm going to do next."

But Lohan says she cannot wait to resume doing things that she had taken for granted, like walking in the neighbourhood, going shopping or dining out.

Her recent request to leave her home to attend her brother's 16th birthday party was denied, she says, which "bummed her out."

In the interview, Lohan also addresses criticism that she got off easy with house arrest by saying it's a common punishment. She says it's a better alternative to a 12-by-8-foot (3 1/2-by-2 1/2-metre) jail cell at the Lynwood facility.

"It's a scary place and a place that I don't wish on anyone," she says. Lohan says she's anxious to get started on the community service portion of her sentence.

"I want to finish that so I can work in August and September," she says. Lohan claims that she no longer drinks, but falls short of saying she'll stay out of nightclubs. "I don't think you should ever say never," she says.

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Aishwarya Rai Expecting First Child

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 04:44 AM PDT

Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is pregnant with her first child, her father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan announced on Twitter on Tuesday.

``I am going to become a grandfather Aishwarya expecting. So happy and thrilled!!!'' Bachchan said, confirming the subject of weeks of speculation.

Rai, 37, a former Miss World, has been married to actor Abhishek Bachchan for more than four years and the star couple had been fending off pregnancy rumours in the past year.

On Tuesday, Rai's media manager confirmed the pregnancy but did not give more details.

Rai, who often features on ``most beautiful'' lists, has worked in several Hollywood and Bollywood films but has taken on noticeably fewer projects recently.

She has no films under production but has signed up to filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar's Heroine, which was announced at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

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New George Clooney movie to open Venice Festival

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 04:40 AM PDT

VENICE, Italy (AP): George Clooney's highly anticipated new movie about a U.S. presidential campaign will open this year's Venice Film Festival.

"The Ides of March" stars Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Festival organisers said Wednesday that the movie will be competing for the coveted Golden Lion award. The film will have its world premiere screening on Aug. 31 following the festival's opening ceremony.

The festival runs through Sept.10. The Oscar-winning Clooney has often attended the Venice film fest.

The Hollywood star has a villa on Lake Como and an Italian girlfriend.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Win Disney workbooks or encyclopaedia set

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 05:27 AM PDT

Wednesday June 22, 2011

If you want to win some Disney school skills workbooks or a nine-volume Grolier My Disney Encyclopedia, head on over to ParenThots.

You could win the encyclopaedia set if you e-mail in your child's first curious question and the workbooks if you tell ParenThots how you encourage your child to read.

Details can be found at ParenThots.

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The Star Online: Nation

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Reshuffle exercise at Bukit Aman Narcotics Dept

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 07:05 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Royal Malaysian Police is planning a reshuffle of the Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department following reports of its officers and staff involved in drug-related offences.

Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim did not rule out the possibility of doing so, as well as to restructure the daily tasks in the department.

"These are among necessary measures to be taken so that we can investigate where they get their drug supply, their purpose of getting the drugs, and also to investigate their property, if there is proof they are involve in selling drugs," he told reporters here Wednesday.

He said this in response to several officers from the narcotics branch being detained for offences under the Dangerous Drugs Act recently.

Last May 31, a senior police officer and five lower ranking police personnel from the narcotics division here were detained for alleged drug trafficking.

Last June 17, six policemen from the Petaling police station were detained for a similar offence. They also tested positive for drug.

Noor Rashid said 896 people, including 92 women, were detained from April to June 19 for drug trafficking.

He said the police had also uncovered 11 drug processing laboratories, comprising eight in Penang, two in Selangor and one in Kedah.

During the period, he said the department had sealed property worth RM26.7mil, believed to be obtained through drug trafficking activities.

Since January and June this year, the police had detained 79,335 people for various drug offences and seized various types of drugs worth RM148.23mil, he added. -- Bernama

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Sheikh Muszaphar to be a father

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:06 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: You have kept tabs on every detail of Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor's space exploration in October 2007 - now Malaysians will have the chance to follow the national astronaut on a different but no less important journey parenthood.

"I've always loved children," said the country's first Angkasawan, who will be a first-time father next month, when launching the parenting portal www.parenthood.my at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday. With him was Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos whom he married last October.

The couple are signed on as spokesman for the website sponsored by CellSafe International, which specialises in stem cell banking.

"When we found out about the pregnancy, we were both very excited and grateful for the opportunity to raise a child together," said Dr Halina.

As medical doctors, both of them are aware of stem cell banking through their work in hospitals, but they had difficulty identifying a suitable company until they came across CellSafe, said Dr Sheikh Muszaphar.

"More awareness is needed for stem-cell banking. In Taiwan, 50% of parents do it, but in Malaysia, it's only 2%. People need to know. Stem cells can treat more than 70 types of diseases," he added.

Lau Kin Wai, CellSafe founder and executive director, said the company had always been on the lookout for a Malaysian who could become CellSafe's spokesperson.

When he found out that Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and his wife were expecting a child, and that both were doctors, he thought they were the perfect candidates.

The couple are also launching the parenting portal as a social networking forum that provides a platform and support group for new parents.

It covers, too, topics like baby's health, pregnancy health, maternity tips and post-maternity do's and don'ts.

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Water supply to resume beginning Thursday for some areas

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 05:44 AM PDT

Published: Wednesday June 22, 2011 MYT 8:41:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday June 22, 2011 MYT 8:44:36 PM

SUNGAI BULOH: The water supply in several areas in the Klang Valley will resume in stages beginning Thursday.

This is possible because repair and upgrading works at the Batang Berjuntai Reservoir was completed ahead of schedule.

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) chief operating officer Datuk Lee Miang Koi said work to replace the main valve at the water treatment plant was completed by Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) several hours ahead of time on Wednesday.

"We will begin pumping water into the Matang Pagar balancing reservoir by 10pm (Wednesday) with water supply gradually restored to areas nearest to the feeder reservoirs the next morning," he told reporters after visiting the Matang Pagar Reservoir here Wednesday.

He said water supply would be fully restored to all four affected districts in the Klang Valley by Friday morning at about 8am.

He denied claims by Fomca that Syabas had not given ample notice to consumers and its clients over the two-day water cut.

"Syabas had given notice a week ago and even advertised it in the newspapers and radio," he said, adding that there may have been some who had missed the water cut notices.

He added that Syabas would put on stand-by its mobile water tanks for homes on higher grounds for fear water supply would resume later.

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Metro Watch

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:41 AM PDT

Mobile payment

THE Ampang Jaya Municipal Council will be having mobile assessment payment counters on weekends throughout the months of June, July and August. The counters will be at Bukit Antarabangsa (in front of Restoran Wangsa) this Saturday (8.30am-12.30pm) and at the Pandan Perdana morning market on Sunday (8.30am-12.30pm).

Blood donation

THE National Blood Centre will be having mobile donation units at the following places today: Jabatan Perangkaan Malaysia (Wilayah Persekutuan), Level 19, Wisma KWSG, Tingkat 19, Kg Attap, Kuala Lumpur (9am-2pm); and Training Room, Mitsui Hitech, Lot 11-A Jalan Ragum 15/17, Shah Alam (9am-4pm).

Sudoku session

THE Malaysia Sudoku Society is introducing 1Sudoku to the Senior Citizens Association (Secita) of Selangor & FT for their monthly Sudoku session on Monday, 9am to 10.30am, at their clubhouse at Bangunan Secita, 4A Jalan SS5D/6, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya. Those who love mental arithmetic should take up this stimulating challenge. All are welcomed. Admission is free. For enquiries, call 019-311 8174 (Lim) or 012-234 1492 (Lee).

Reunion dinner

THE X-TI Penang of 60's will be having a reunion dinner and dance party on Saturday at the Royal Commonwealth Society Club hall, off Jalan Batai, Damansara Heights, KL. For details, call 012-200 6450 (Raja), 019-331 5046 (Quah) or 017-339 1263 (Cheam).

Women's summit

THE Women's Summit this year will be held on July 25 at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Bukit Kiara, KL, featuring a debate titled Women Make Better Bosses! There will also be talks by a panel of speakers. Registration is required as seats are limited. For details, visit www.thewomenssummit.org

Race pack collection

PARTICIPANTS of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2011 can collect their race packs from Wednesday-Friday, noon-8pm and on Saturday, from 11am-6pm at the Dewan Sri Putra, Bukit Jalil, KL.

SMART closure

THE Storm Water Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) will be closed for routine maintenance from now till until 6am on Thursday. Motorists can call 1300-88-7188 for more information.

Teh tarik competition

WITNESS amazing tea-pulling techniques exhibited by the participants of the Cabaran Teh Tarik F&N Finale today, 5.30pm at the e@Curve (Cineleisure) in PJ. Eight the tarik experts will battle it out to be crowned the next Raja Tarik F&N.

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Penang ACSU take honours in Goodwill Games

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 06:41 AM PDT

THE Penang Anglo Chinese School Union (ACSU) became the champions of the Goodwill Games in Kuala Lumpur recently.

In the annual games, ACSU edged The Kuala Lumpur Methodist Afternoon School Old Boys Association (Masoba).

In tennis, played at the PJ Club, both teams decided to call off the encounter, when the score was tied at 2-2, because of the blistering heat.

In carrom, Masoba upstaged ACSU 5-0 but latter replied with vengeance in table tennis winning 5-0.

The ACSU team also triumphed in snooker and darts with identical 3-1 wins.

However, Masoba were winners in badminton beating ACSU 3-2.

The Goodwill Games, the 46th in the series, culminated with dinner hosted by Masoba in Seri Petaling.

The 47th Goodwill Games will be hosted by the ACSU. The ACSU contingent leader K. Korisatan said the games would be held in Medan, Indonesia next year.

The Masoba contingent leader Hor Yee said there was a need to review the format for the Goodwill Games.

"Most of the Masoba team members are getting old. Many of them are either in the early 70s or late 60. So the current situation has to be changed,'' said Hor Yee.

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Metro Watch

Posted: 21 Jun 2011 03:50 PM PDT


The winner of the 14th Malacca Open Darts Championships will be pocketing RM14,100. It will take place at the Grand Continental Hotel from June 25- 26. For details, contact 012-635 2665 (V.M. Ganesan) or 012-693 1295 (Shariff Ahmad).


Looking for unique and beautifully carved wooden and traditional batik and ceramic products for souvenirs or home decoration? Check out the Pahang Handicraft Corporation complex at Kampung Pandan II, Kuantan-Terengganu bypass. Opens from Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm. For details, call 09-538 5677.


Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) has launched the Zero Waste Zone 2011 and it is MPK's aspiration to ensure that Kuantan Town Centre becomes a zero waste zone from Jalan Tanah Putih in front of Giant Hypermarket to Teluk Cempedak. For details, call 09-5121 555/666 or log on to their website at www.mpk.gov.my


Mahkota Medical Centre will be providing comprehensive cancer counselling services for free to the public, in collaboration with Malacca Cancer Society, every Friday from 4-6pm at No.76, Jalan Taman Melaka Raya 25, Taman Melaka Raya, Malacca. For details, call 06-285 2931 (Dr Sanjeev), 06-285 2975 (Dr Jayendran) or 06-285 0988 (Michaelina/Koh).


A beginner's ballroom dancing class for cancer survivors, family, friends and caretakers is held every Thursday from 11am-noon at a monthly fee of RM10 at Malacca Cancer Society's Oasis centre. Conversational Mandarin class is held every Tuesday from noon to 3pm at a monthly fee of RM20. For details, call 06- 283 0988 (Oasis) ,012-399 7176 (Koh) or 012-323 9300 (Chua).


National Stroke Association of Malaysia (Nasam) Kuantan branch is looking for volunteers to help rehabilitate stroke victims. Nasam, a non-profit organisation, will provide training. For details, call 09- 566 8195 or 019-951 0012 (Chua)


The Salvation Army's Hopehaven Centre for Special Children in Malacca has been relocated to its former premises at No.321, Jalan Parameswara (opposite Banda Hilir jail). It is also expanding its Early Intervention Programme and Sheltered Employment Programme. For details, call 06-288 2693 / 283 2101 (Sarala Gopi).


Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia Kuantan branch welcomes used items such as metal containers, aluminium cans, glass and plastic bottles and clothing at its recycling centre. The centre is open every Sunday from 9am to noon. For details, call 09-517 2969 / 061.


Those wishing to learn sign language can attend classes organised by Johor Deaf Association at Johor Communication Centre, 64-01, Larkin Perdana 3, Taman Larkin Perdana, every weekend from 2pm to 4pm. For details, call 07-234 9925 (office hours) or 019-732 5100.

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Malaysians are an amicable lot until they get behind the wheel

Posted: 21 Jun 2011 03:50 PM PDT

AS FAR as manners go, Malaysians can be described as civil as we go out of our way to avoid conflicts — except on the road.

Behind the wheel, we would morph into a braver and more confrontational version of ourselves.

The windshield and surrounding metals of a car are like suit armours. When we're sitting behind the wheel, we feel powerful, in control and wear the illusion of invincibility like a cloak.

People who would never have jumped the queue at the movies or McDonald's would cut into a long lane of cars without blinking.

Apparently, normal rules and etiquette don't apply on the road.

Malaysians frown upon discrimination and promote harmony with a smile, but we make fun or take advantage of smaller, slower or more hesitant vehicles when driving.

When we see a vehicle with a 'P' sticker or trail behind an 'L' driver, we would heave an impatient sigh of frustration before speeding up to overtake the vehicle.

At the toll, people would grumble and curse at those who are incompetent enough to get stuck at a Smart Tag lane.

One would think that Malaysians drivers would always arrive at our destination on time or early — such is our eagerness for utmost speed on the road — but we are always late.

Blaming the traffic for tardiness is not just an acceptable excuse in our nation, it's part of our ever-attractive culture.

For example, just like adopting the word lah into their vocabulary, every foreigner who wants to feel like they've made Malaysia their home would just have to participate in the blame-the-traffic custom and we would welcome them like one of our own.

Sure, traffic is such nightmare during peak hours, but most of the time, bad traffic is more a handy scapegoat than anything else.

Case in point: The very important people in our country blaze across highways with wailing sirens and police escorts; but they always seem to arrive late for a function.

Cannot blame the traffic, lah.

However aggressive we are on the road, Malaysians are still an amicable lot.

When we see VIP vehicles with escorts on the road we always give way, some respectfully, many reluctantly.

We would complain bitterly or swear savagely at the people who are important enough to warrant escorts; yet if we were offered the same deal, I hardly think that any of us would refuse.

In fact, the citizens of this country do not really begrudge our VIPs the luxury of escorts on the road.

What people are feeling increasingly discontent about is being pushed aside like inconsequential objects on the road.

I have witnessed instances that could have ended disastrously as cars brake too fast and violently when they see a VIP entourage coming. We would look up to the leaders of our country and if they practice patience and respect on the road, our drivers will begin to emulate their actions.

Whether we admit it or not, Malaysian drivers are in need of some lessons when it comes to good road manners.

People complain about how expensive cars are in our country yet we reserve very little sympathy for those unable to afford one.

Motorcyclists are the lowest regarded people on the road, even beneath cyclists.

When we see cyclists on the road, we take extra care not to go near them. We even respect their tenacity and are in awe of their stamina and discipline.

Motorcyclists, on the other hand, are looked upon as nuisances.

I am in fear of snatch-thieves and abhor people who think nothing about putting a few scratches on my car, but here I'd like to remind everyone who drives that not all motorcyclists are out to get us.

Some of us behave like kings of the road, where respect and right of way is due to us.

You wouldn't think less of someone in a wheelchair just because you can walk and they can't, so why would we discriminate on the road?

I do not understand the reluctance to make eye contact with other drivers, especially in acknowledgement of their patience or generosity in pausing for us to slip by.

On the way outstation a few weeks ago, my friend Chelsia, jerked in surprise as a driver showed her the finger as he shot past.

She was in the passenger seat and our car was crawling along in traffic. None of us did anything to provoke that rude gesture.

After stewing over it for a good 10 minutes, my husband Yuri commented, "If you think thinking and being upset about it, the guy would've given you the finger 10 times over".

We were instantly sheepish.

The rules of the road should not be very different from the rules of life. We can't control what people do, but we can determine our own course of action.

Be polite, be respectful and always be safe. Sometimes, it's just not worth it.

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Kiber Sambas wins boat race

Posted: 21 Jun 2011 03:50 PM PDT

KOTA KINABALU: An inaugural outing at the Sabah Dragon Boat Race 2011 here turned out to be a rewarding effort for the Kiber Sambas team from West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The West Kalimantan team did not shy away despite competing against teams that make the annual event a regular item in their calendars and as a result they clocked the best time in the competition, as they clinched the main title - Sabah Head of State's Trophy.

"We should have participated last year but we were involved in another competition," said Indonesia West Kalimantan Rowing Athletics Association head Abdi Norkamil Mawardi.

"And it's been no waste coming here since we won the main race and we are very happy."

He pointed out that the decision to contest in the event stemmed from the desire to get to know Sabah and build a network with other dragon boat teams.

"We are all in the same island of Borneo so we must get to know each other as well as make new friendships," he said, adding the organisers have also been excellent.

No stranger to the Sabah Dragon Boat Race, the National Brunei Darussalam team made their 21st appearance this time around and are eager to return again next year.

Like Abdi, group leader Harris Ibrahim said victory was not their first priority.

"Winning and losing is part of any competition but we are here to support Sabah and plus we have a lot of relatives in this state," he said.

A total of 60 teams competed in the two-day 26th Sabah Dragon Boat Race that began on June 18 at the Likas Bay here.

Kiber Sambas took first spot in the highlight event, the Sabah Head of State's Trophy, completing 800mof water and clocking a time of 3:14 sec and taking home RM4,000 as a result.

The National Team Brunei Darussalam A and Penang Forward Sports Club claimed the second and third spots, respectively.

Nine categories were contested in the race, which is one of Sabah's premiere events, offering a total cash prize of RM43,000.

The event is organised by the Sabah Tourism Board, its wholly-owned subsidiary Sri Pelancongan Sabah SdnBhd and the Sabah Chinese Cultural Association.

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Facing his demons

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 03:48 AM PDT

Indie rock star Radhi OAG is taking charge of his life after checking into a drug rehab centre.

BEING in the Pengasih rehab centre has made indie rock singer Radhi OAG view things differently. For one, the recent stint helped him to address his drug problem and face his demons. He has been under treatment for the last four months and things are looking up for the pint-sized star. In fact, he is now inspired more than ever to continue sharing his music with his fans after his time at Pengasih – a rehab centre/halfway house using therapeutic treatment to treat drug addicts, and chemical and alcohol users.

This Saturday, Radhi will hold a free admission show at Downtown @ Bukit Dukung, R&R Cheras-Kajang Highway in Kuala Lumpur with his new group Outlet at 8.30pm.

Radhi, whose real name is Mohd Radhi bin Razali, checked into Pengasih early this year. As the lead singer of the indie group OAG, which was formed in 1992, the 33-year-old has been a constant fixture in the homegrown music scene.

Apart from creating indie hits and living the celebrity life, there was a dark side that Radhi had to face up to – his drug addiction.

"Joining Pengasih was probably the best thing I've done so far. I found new friends and formed a band called Outlet. In Pengasih, I was called the 'King of Outlet'. Outlet means playful and gila gila. Somehow, I earned that name when I was inside there," said Radhi, spotting a clean, fresh look with a new hair cut, during a press conference at Rumah Pengasih in KL recently.

Radhi, known for his quick-witted replies, is not ashamed to admit that he has joined the ranks of popular singer Jamal Abdillah as one of Pengasih VIP inmates.

"I've learned my lessons well. I view many things from different perspective now. This will be my first performance in a long time after undergoing rehab at Pengasih. I will bring the familiar tunes during my OAG days and new songs which I composed while in Pengasih," said the outspoken singer who kicked off his singing career at 17.

Outlet is a band consisting Pengasih members, which includes two of his buddies, Hafizi Harun (drummer) and Muhammad Kamil Muhammad Muazam (guitarist).

Though he is with Outlet now, Radhi's heart is also with OAG which he described "as still active."

Apart from his ongoing treatment to kick the drug habit, Radhi said that he also quit smoking in the last month."It dawned on me that I could also quit smoking if I wanted to. And that's how I stopped smoking," said the Radhi who went through a bad divorce recently.

Radhi – who had recent hits Radio Rosak and Senyuman Ragamu (with Gerhana Ska Cinta) – was also inspired to write a song based on the idea of him quitting the nicotine habit. Hence a song titled, I'm A Stupid Smoker.

Then he wrote the poignant Tears Spark Street about how he viewed the outside world when he was an addict.

"From now on, I will only sing songs which have positive messages," said the singer who was born in Kuching, Sarawak.

He recalled how he ended up in Pengasih. "I remember that very day ... I was really feeling down and out. I was desperate and I thought of my son, my family and I just pulled myself together and drove to Pengasih. I checked myself in. Now I consider this as my second chance," he said.

"I have only regrets when I look back at the past. I kept messing up, over and over again. As a father, I realised I should not have done what I did. Everything that happened – my failed marriage, my difficult personal life, my chaotic lifestyle – all these have affected my career very badly. It's time I took charge of my life before it's too late."

Of all the things he regrets the most, nothing beats not being able to give his best to his six-year-old son Mohd Rifdhi Muslim.

"I'm sure my boy will be heartbroken if he were to read about the mess I've been in. The last five years have been the most painful and most unproductive years of my career."

While talking about the pride and joy of his life, Radhi's face lit up. Although he doesn't see Rifdhi as frequently as he wants to – now that he is at the rehab centre – Radhi makes sure he spends quality time with his son when he visits.

"My ex-wife Shazlin Sharif and I celebrated Rifdhi's sixth birthday at Pengasih on May 25. Rifdhi showed me some pictures and books. I was so touched ... as a birthday gift for him, I vowed that I would quit smoking.

"As a father I want to give the best to Rifdhi because he is everything to me," said Radhi who has starred in the telemovie, Ora Ora Yeah (TV2) and played the main character, Pohjee, in the movie Antoofighter.

For now, he is playing the leading role in cleaning up his own life – with the promise of a sobered up Radhi ready to return to the entertainment scene filled with a new zest for life.

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Chou’s golden Era

Posted: 22 Jun 2011 03:48 AM PDT

Jay Chou, Jonathan Lee and Karen Mok bag top honours at the 22nd Golden Melody Awards in Taipei, Taiwan.

IT'S been a milestone year for Jay Chou. The Asian pop sensation marked a decade in the music business with his 10th studio album, which became the latest in his recent string of bestsellers. He also made his Hollywood debut by playing Kato in the hit action comedy The Green Hornet.

The Taiwanese singer-songwriter added to an already decorated year on Saturday by clinching the top awards at his home island's 22nd Golden Melody Awards – Chinese pop's answer to the Grammys – picking up the best Mandarin album and best Mandarin male singer trophies for his recent release The Era.

Industry veteran Jonathan Lee also had a strong showing, sweeping song of the year, best composer and best lyricist for his single Jonathan's Song. The soul-searching look at a man's love life was a product of his "Super Band" collaboration with fellow Chinese pop standouts Emil Chau, Lo Da-yu and Chang Chen-yue, which yielded a year-long tour and two albums.

The award for best Mandarin female performer went to Hong Kong's Karen Mok, who showcased her jazzy and laid-back vocals on the CD, Precious.

Chou, who has won 13 Golden Melody trophies over his career, was playful in his acceptance speech after clinching best Mandarin singer award, joking about his superstitious belief that he tended to win when he didn't attend the awards ceremony.

"The Golden Melody jury is different every year. I like the one this year," he said. "I've always debated whether or not to attend the awards ceremony. Usually, when I skip it, I win the big prizes. Thanks to the jury for changing my mind."

Chou's logic seemed to apply to Lee. The veteran singer-songwriter missed the Saturday night ceremony at Taipei Arena because of work obligations.

He said of Jonathan's Song in a statement published in the ceremony's official booklet: "This isn't just a song. This is the cry of the soul of everyone who is in love."

Mok, who was also named best female singer in 2002, was emotional when her win was announced, raising her trophy aloft in celebration.

She wrote all the songs on the album, a collaboration with famed mainland Chinese producer Zhang Yadong, who oversaw several of Hong Kong diva Faye Wong's albums.

"I can't believe I've won this award the second time. The more I win this prize, the more I want to win it again. I am addicted to it," she said.

Taiwan's Eric Hung was named best producer for the album Flower Of Love, which drew inspiration from the classic songs of his father, legendary Taiwanese singer Hung I-feng, who passed away last year.

A smaller version of the massive Japanese girl band AKB48 – which has 58 members – was a guest performer. Dressed in identical blue scarves, ruffled white dresses and white boots, 16 members of the group waved their hands and swayed their bodies through two fast numbers and thanked the Taiwanese public for their donations to Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief.

Taiwanese pop diva A-Mei Chang anchored a tribute to late Chinese pop composers, singing a medley of their works with orchestral backing.

Organisers also presented seven awards to musicians performing in Taiwan's aboriginal Min and Hakka dialects, in a nod to the linguistic diversity of the country's music industry. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou announced the best aboriginal album and congratulated the winners.

Aboriginal musicians also crossed over to the main categories, with aboriginal reggae group Matzka taking home the best rock group honours.

Best pop group went to Da Mouth, the Taiwanese-Japanese hip-hop group that has drawn comparisons to the Black Eyed Peas. Da Mouth also prevailed in the same category in 2008.

The winner of the lifetime achievement award was Huang Min, a veteran composer and producer of Mandarin and Min dialect pop. Huang was also honoured with a medley performance of his classic songs. – AP


> Song Of The Year: Jonathan Lee, Jonathan's Song

> Best Mandarin Album: Jay Chou, The Era

> Best Mandarin Male Singer: Jay Chou, The Era

> Best Mandarin Female Singer: Karen Mok, Precious

> Best Pop Group: Da Mouth

> Best Rock Group: Matzka

> Best Music Video: Hebe Tien, Things Will Look Up If You Spend Some Time Alone

> Best Newcomer: WeiBird (pic, right)

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Clemons' death leaves void for Springsteen

Posted: 21 Jun 2011 11:38 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): E Street will never be quite the same.

The death of saxophone player Clarence Clemons ripped a hole in Bruce Springsteen's music and onstage life, taking away a figure who had served him loyally for decades and never failed to add joy to the E Street Band's epic performances.

Clemons died Saturday at age 69, about a week after he suffered a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Florida. It's not the first loss for the rock world's best-known and most accomplished backup band. Keyboard player Danny Federici died in 2008 of melanoma.

Steve Van Zandt, Springsteen's youthful friend and closest partner, left for several years in the 1980s and was replaced on guitar by Nils Lofgren. When Van Zandt returned, Lofgren stayed.

Yet Clemons' loss cuts deeply into the soul of the band. His importance was acknowledged whenever Springsteen performed "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," when he sang, "We made that change uptown and the Big Man joined the band," inevitably followed by a wail of Clemons' sax and a roar from the crowd.

The two men met in 1971 on the New Jersey bar band circuit, and when Springsteen released his debut album two years later, Clemons left a more successful outfit for a new Boss.

Inevitably Clemons' introduction was the climax every night when Springsteen presented the individual band members to the audience, accompanied by a variety of regal nicknames like "Master of the Universe" and "King of the World."

"Do I have to say his name?" Springsteen would shout to the crowd. "No!" came the roar back. He did anyway. Last fall's release of "The Promise," which included a DVD of a 1978 Springsteen concert performance, underscored the central role of Clemons in the act.

The two men were a marked physical contrast: a bedgraggled, slightly scrawny white guitar player and a 6-foot-5-inch (1.96-metre), 270-plus-pound (122-plus-kilogramme) black man with a sax - known simply as the Big Man - who would be intimidating if he didn't so often carry a smile.

They would stalk each other on the stage, staring with ferocious eyes, and play their instruments as they stood back to back, leaning on the other for support. They'd even kiss, their relationship sending a message of brotherhood, family and - given racial undertones - tolerance and respect for all.

The relationship was captured memorably with a giant photo of the two men on the cover of Springsteen's "Born to Run" album. Clemons was musically vital, too, particularly given the longer, structurally ambitious songs Springsteen was writing in the 1970s, a potent mixture of rock, soul, jazz and folk.

Clemons' sax kicked "Born to Run" into overdrive, and his solo was a key moment in the majestic "Jungleland." He had a deep, booming voice not often displayed, although he added hearty "ho-ho-ho's" during seasonal renditions of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town."

Truth be told, Clemons' role in the E Street Band diminished as the years went on. Springsteen's simpler song structures left less space for the sax, and the instrument competed to be heard in a dense wall of sound anchored by three electric guitar players. Clemons would add maracas or tambourines to some of Springsteen's compositions.

Clemons' physical ailments also made him a less active presence onstage. He underwent spinal surgery last year after many years of back pain and spent time in a wheelchair after double knee replacement surgery.

Springsteen generously made accommodations for the ailments, installing an elevator on the stage set for when Clemons couldn't negotiate the stairs, according to Caryn Rose and Glenn Radecki of the Springsteen website Backstreets. A throne-like golden chair was placed onstage for when Clemons needed his rest.

Clemons' death is unlikely to bring an end to the E Street Band, which Springsteen alluded to in a statement posted on his website Saturday announcing the death. "We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years," he said.

"He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."

But the loss leaves Springsteen with a real challenge moving forward. While Federici's contributions were valued and respected, he was a back bencher, tied to the shadows of the stage and his replacement not a major issue for the casual fan.

Clemons was different, and his loss will inevitably change the onstage dynamic. The saxophone is such a major presence in Springsteen's music that it's difficult to imagine many of his songs being performed without it. They will be big shoes for anyone to fill.

"As long as we tell the stories, as long as we play the songs, the Big Man will always be with us," Rose and Radecki wrote on Backstreets following Clemons' death.

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