Rabu, 29 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates


Bachmann says she can be 'unifying' U.S. candidate

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 09:22 PM PDT

ROCK HILL, S.C. (Reuters) - Rising Tea Party star Michele Bachmann said on Wednesday she can be a unifying candidate for the Republican Party's 2012 bid for the U.S. presidency by attracting disaffected Democrat and independent voters.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) addresses a gathering of supporters to formally launch her campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination in her childhood hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, June 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

Bachmann, a conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said her experience shifting as a Democrat who worked on Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign to a Republican congresswoman enables her to attract other voters.

"What sets me apart is I've been there, done that. I understand where they're coming from. I understand independents," she said at a town hall meeting at Winthrop University's DiGiorgio Campus Center. "I am the unifying candidate that is running."

Bachmann, 55, is working to establish herself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, the Republican Party's front-runner in a crowded field of candidates fighting for the right to face Democratic President Barack Obama in next year's election.

Her campaign was buoyed by a Des Moines Register poll on Saturday that showed her with 22 percent support in Iowa, only 1 percentage point behind first-place Romney in the first contest on the path to the Republican nomination.

Bachmann was also boosted by a strong performance at a New Hampshire debate two weeks ago, prompting Republicans to take a second look at her.

Wednesday's event -- simulcast on the Internet via Bachmann's website -- took questions from Facebook and the audience, which topped 600 in the main ballroom and several overflow rooms.

Bachmann, who entered to Elvis Presley's "Promised Land" and a standing ovation, focused her rhetoric against Obama's policies, notably the healthcare reform law enacted last year.

"This will not be an election about petty things, this will be an election about big things," she said.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Magnitude 5.4 quake hits central Japan, 7 injured

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 09:22 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - A magnitude 5.4 earthquake hit central Japan and injured seven people on Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.

The epicentre of the earthquake, which struck around 8:16 a.m. (2316 GMT on Wednesday) was in Nagano prefecture, about 120 km (75 miles) from Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

No tsunami warning was issued after the quake, the agency said. The magnitude was revised down from a preliminary reading of 5.5.

Seven people were taken to hospital including those hurt from falling objects, but the injuries did not appear serious, an official at the local fire department said.

Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

On March 11, the northeast coast was struck by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest quake in Japan on record, and a massive tsunami, which triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The disaster left up to 23,000 dead or missing.

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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New doubts raised on Saleh's return

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 09:22 PM PDT

SANAA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh was so severely injured in an assassination attempt that it is uncertain when he will return to the country, Yemen Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has said.

Saleh was injured in an attack on his palace in early June and is receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Yemen has been shaken by months of protests against his three-decade rule.

A man rests during an anti-government protest to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa June 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

Hadi told CNN in an interview that he saw Saleh immediately after the bomb attack and the Yemeni leader had a piece of wood between his ribs in his chest and burns to his face, arms and upper body.

Hadi said according to the doctors no one can tell when Saleh might return.

"Days, weeks, months," he told CNN through a translator. "It could be months, this is a decision up to the doctors."

Opposition officials meanwhile said that more than 300 government soldiers had defected, in a further blow to Saleh as he recovers from his injuries.

In a message sent through his foreign minister on state television on Wednesday, Saleh called for dialogue with the opposition to implement a Gulf-brokered plan for transition of power.

"We discussed the Gulf initiative, and [Saleh] called for the opening of a dialogue with the opposition...in order to agree on a vehicle by which to implement the Gulf initiative," Yemen's Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi said.

Al-Qirbi said he had visited Saleh in hospital and that his health and that of other high ranking officials who were injured in the attack was "good and in continuous improvement."

Yemeni officials had said Saleh would make his first public appearance since the palace attack this week but Saleh's media secretary Ahmed al-Sufi told Reuters the president's plan to record a video message to be broadcast on state television had been delayed on the advice of his doctors.

Yemen, the poorest Arab state and a neighbour of the world's largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been shaken by the protests against Saleh, a resurgent wing of al Qaeda and a separatist rebellion in the south.

The United States and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda may use the chaos to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

At least 26 Yemeni government soldiers and 17 Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda were killed on Wednesday in heavy fighting for control of a stadium near the southern city of Zinjibar, officials said.

An official said a counter-offensive was underway to retake the stadium, located near a military base.

Yemeni officials had been reporting successes against the estimated 300 militants who seized control of Zinjibar in May in the midst of a groundswell of popular protests against Saleh.

Saleh's opponents say his forces handed over the city to the militants to bolster his argument that his departure would lead to an Islamist takeover of the Arabian Peninsula state.

Yemeni air force planes had killed at least 10 gunmen in attacks on Zinjibar earlier on Wednesday, a local Yemeni official said. One strike hit a bus travelling from Zinjibar to Aden, the official added, killing five passengers and wounding 12 other people.

DEFECTION

Opposition officials reported that more than 300 members of the Yemeni security forces, including 150 from the Republican Guards led by Saleh's son Ahmed, had defected to rebels.

"From the podium of the Square of Change in Sanaa, an announcement has been issued that 150 soldiers from the Republican Guards, 130 Central Security soldiers and 60 policemen have joined the revolt," an opposition message said.

Government officials were unavailable to comment on the report.

There have been a series of defections by security forces since the anti-Saleh uprising began in February. Most prominent was the defection in March of Brigadier General Ali Mohsen, who has since sent in his troops to guard protesters in Sanaa.

Yemen has been largely quiet with a ceasefire in place since Saleh was injured in the attack, which investigators say was caused by explosives planted in the palace mosque where he and senior government officials were praying

Saleh, 69, who has not been seen in public since the attack, has resisted pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to hand over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under a Gulf nations' initiative to end the crisis.

Hadi has been running the country in Saleh's absence but the opposition wants a formal hand over of power to pave the way for new elections.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif in Jeddah and Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; writing by Sami Aboudi; editing by Angus MacSwan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio


Other-worldly escapades

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 04:08 PM PDT

Nothing is what it seems for Anna Torv in the sci-fi series Fringe.

ANNA Torv is an Australian actress who plays an American FBI agent on the hit TV series Fringe which is shot 10 months a year in Canada. So, you can't blame the journalists sitting before Torv for looking perplexed when the actress started talking – her accent is neither Aussie nor American.

Torv herself finds her accent strange. "I hate that, but I think that is what happens when (an Australian) spends all day talking in an American accent," she explained.

The international media is gathered at the Soho Hotel in London to speak to Torv about Fringe, a science-fiction series which sees a team of FBI agents and consultants investigate unbelievable events, macabre crimes and mystifying cases.

Torv plays Olivia Dunham, a no-nonsense FBI agent whose uniform usually comprises pantsuits and pullback hair. At this interview, Torv couldn't be more different from her character. She wore a tight-fitting black cocktail dress (a find from London's Camden market, she happily admitted), four-inch (10cm) heels and bright red lipstick.

For Torv, getting into character is much easier when she puts on the pantsuit. "I think that's sort of one of the things that gets easier – you put the suit on and you can kind of go in and out (of character) much quicker because you know her rhythms and patterns."

However, playing Olivia can also be daunting. The actress explained: "Olivia's constantly the questioner and constantly carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. It's exhausting."

But by no means does that mean Torv doesn't enjoy her job. This gig has been her longest acting job – season four of Fringe begins Stateside in September. "Going to work is just a pleasure. We're like a machine now – everyone has a role to play. And being able to work with a bunch of people that you know, that you kind of have worked with enough, they become your mates."

The Aussie actress gushed when she talked about her co-stars John Noble and Joshua Jackson who play scientists Walter Bishop and his son Peter Bishop respectively.

"Well, they're both great and the work that they've done with each other to create that father/son relationship, I think is the heart of the show. I'm in awe of, and I'm grateful for, what they have done because I think that it really elevates our show," the 32-year-old actress said.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Torv spent her childhood years on the Gold Coast. After she graduated from Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2001, Torv landed a few TV jobs in Sydney. Then in 2008, she decided to move to America to pursue her career. It is rumoured that she beat 300 hopefuls for the role of Olivia in Fringe.

Even after three seasons in Fringe, Torv still finds it difficult to keep a straight face when shooting "strange" scenes. "Gosh, we giggle constantly. I mean, some of the stuff that we have to do is ridiculous," she laughed. "And sometimes, awfully revolting as well.

"When you stand and look at these giant worms coming out of people's mouths, you just have to suspend belief when you shoot scenes like that. Fake it till you make it."

The second season of the series posed to be an interesting turn for Torv as she had to play two characters when a parallel universe was introduced to the storyline. While Olivia (from the prime universe) is uptight and serious, Fauxlivia (from the parallel universe) is the opposite ... much to Torv's delight!

"I was so excited to get to play this chick from the other side because all of a sudden she could just be a little lighter."

While critically acclaimed (last week the series picked up a Saturn Award for Best Network series beating out Lost and Smallville, while Torv won Best Actress in Television), Fringe hasn't really enjoyed the success the studio is hoping for. Ratings have been disappointing so it was a surprise to many, fans especially, when Fox renewed the series for another season.

Fringe executive producer Jeff Pinkner told The Hollywood Reporter: "Fox told us they were thrilled with the show creatively, even if the number wasn't exactly what they would've hoped for, they know the audience is deep and loyal, and that's valuable to them."

Torv couldn't agree more with that statement. "As far as the fans go, we're only on air because they watch it." She explained that the fans have a lot to do with the direction of the series as there is plenty of interaction and communication between the writers and fans.

"(The writers) don't just put it out there and not care; they really do care and are really interested about what our audience thinks. And things kind of do change often, depending on what the audience wants."

However, Torv is not glued to the Internet to read what fans have to say about her character. She does get stopped on the street by fans who are mostly interested in the show rather than the actress herself.

"Look, the thing about our show is that the people who watch it, when they recognise you on the street, all they want to know is what's going to happen next. I'm totally proud to be part of a show where the show's the star!"

> The encore presentation of Fringe Season Two starts June 30 at 10pm, every Thursday, on WarnerTV (HyppTV Ch 162).

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business


US stocks rise as Greece nears debt solution

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:47 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks closed higher for the third day in a row Wednesday after Greece cleared a hurdle toward getting more emergency loans. Financial stocks rose after Bank of America reached a settlement with investors over failed mortgage securities.

Greek lawmakers passed an austerity bill that brought the country closer to getting a financial backstop it needs to avoid defaulting on its debt. A default by Greece would shock global markets and freeze lending to other heavily indebted European countries.

The $17 billion relief package from international lenders does not eliminate the possibility that Greece will default, but it does buy Greece and other European countries more time to repair their budgets.

"The hope is that through the passage of time and slow improvement of finances, markets will become a little more forgiving," said Wasif Latif, a vice president at USAA Investment Management.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 72.73 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 12,261.42 Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.74, or 0.8 percent, to 1,307.41. The Nasdaq composite rose 11.18, or 0.4 percent, to 2,740.49.

Financial companies in the S&P 500 rose 2.1 percent after Bank of America Corp. reached an $8.5 billion settlement with investors over claims it sold them bad loans. The investors said Bank of America violated agreements with them by selling them low-quality mortgage-backed securities that lost value when the housing market collapsed. Much of the losses stem from BofA's 2008 purchase of the troubled lender Countrywide.

Bank stocks also got a lift from news that the Federal Reserve plans to limit the fees banks can charge retailers for swiping debit cards to 21 cents. That's higher than the 12 cents the Fed first proposed.

Relief that Bank of America settled with investors sent the lender's stock up 3 percent. Bank of America is still down 24 percent over the past year, far more than any other major U.S. bank.

It was the third and largest settlement Bank of America has struck this year over mortgage investments. The bank reached a $2.6 billion settlement in January over home loans sold to the government-backed mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In April, the company agreed to pay up to $1.6 billion to an insurer that demanded the bank repurchase faulty mortgages it had been sold.

Energy stocks rose more than 1 percent after oil prices rose above $95 on a report that U.S. crude supplies fell last week. The drop suggests demand for oil might be rising.

Monsanto Co. gained 5 percent after the chemicals company reported earnings that beat analysts' expectations. BJ's Wholesale Club rose 4.6 percent after announcing that two private equity firms would buy the warehouse chain.

More than two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated trading volume was an average 3.9 billion shares.

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Oil rebound weakens effect of supply release

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:46 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - An attempt by the U.S. and other non-OPEC governments to sway oil and gasoline prices appears to have petered out in less than a week.

Benchmark crude for August delivery gained $1.88, or 2 percent, to settle at $94.77 per barrel Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Over two days, oil has nearly recovered the loss from last Thursday when the U.S. and other oil-importing countries said they'd dump emergency oil supplies onto the market.

Brent crude, which is used to price many international oil varieties, also rebounded. Although at $112.40 per barrel, it's still about 2 percent below where it was last week.

Motorists anticipating a big discount at the gas pump will likely be disappointed. Gasoline futures recovered the 20 cents per gallon that were lost after the International Energy Agency, which includes the U.S., said it would make 60 million barrels of crude and other fuels available this summer.

Gasoline for July delivery, which jumped 4.2 percent Wednesday to settle at $3.01 per gallon on the Nymex, is now 3.7 cents more expensive than before IEA's announcement.

Initially after the IEA announcement, analysts were predicting a drop of as much as 25 cents in pump prices. Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, said Wednesday the IEA's move cut no more than 2 to 5 cents off the price of retail gasoline in the last week.

"The rest was negated because of the increase in oil during the last 24 hours," DeHaan said.

The U.S. average gasoline price fell nearly a penny overnight to $3.543 per gallon (3.8 liters).

Oil has this week as Greek lawmakers prepared for and passed financial reforms that were required for the country to receive the next installment of an international aid package. Without that money, the country risks defaulting on its debts. A bullish report on oil and crude supplies in the U.S. also boosted prices on Wednesday.

"The IEA did move the market, but the lesson is that many other things can move it too," said Cameron Hanover analyst Peter Beutel.

Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, said the decision in Greece eased concerns about a spreading financial crisis in Europe.

"Nobody wanted a regional collapse that would affect western banks," Kloza said. "There is a sense now that this is going to go away for a few months."

The dollar lost ground to the euro and other major currencies, which boosted oil as well. Oil, which is priced in dollars, tends to rise as the greenback falls and makes crude barrels cheaper for investors holding foreign currency.

Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration said U.S. oil supplies dropped more than expected last week, losing 4.4 million barrels to a total of 359.5 million barrels in storage. That tally doesn't include the 30 million barrels that the U.S. is expected to release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in August.

Gasoline supplies also fell unexpectedly by 1.4 million barrels, according to the EIA report. Oil demand in the U.S. fell by 1.7 percent while gasoline demand dropped 0.3 percent when compared with the same period last year.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil for July delivery added 9.45 cents to settle at $2.9202 per gallon and natural gas for August delivery dropped 0.39 cents to settle at $4.315 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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EU proposes US$1.48 trillion budget for 2014-2020

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:44 PM PDT

BRUSSELS (AP) - The European Union on Wednesday proposed a budget worth 1.025 trillion (US$1.48 trillion) for the seven years between 2014 and 2020, up 5 percent from the previous budget period.

The budget outline from the European Commission, the EU's executive, kicks off months of wrangling with the 27 member states, which are determined to keep spending down and the European Parliament, which will seek as much input as possible on where the money goes.

According to Wednesday's proposal, the biggest amount of money, about 376 billion, would go to boosting the EU's underdeveloped regions. That's followed by around 372 billion to support the region's farmers.

"We are proposing an ambitious, and at the same time responsible budget," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. "It is a realistic proposal with which we can make a difference."

For years, the EU has been under pressure, especially from rich member states like Germany and Britain, to keep spending in check as national governments are struggling to get their own budgets under control. In October, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands demanded that the EU budget should be frozen, allowing increases only to make up for inflation.

Britain's Treasury immediately came out against the commission's proposal, calling it "completely unrealistic."

"It is too large, not the restrained budget they claim and incompatible with the tough decisions being taken in countries across Europe," it said in a statement.

EU-skepticism has been on the rise, as taxpayers in richer countries are balking at spending hundreds of billions of euros on rescue loans for struggling euro countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal - even though those bailouts are not funded through the EU budget. Citizens in the struggling states, meanwhile, are suffering from the austerity demanded in return for those emergency loans, which many see as an undemocratic imposition from Brussels.

Overall, the EU budget only makes up about 1 percent of total economic output in the EU, compared with an average of 44 percent of gross domestic product going to national budgets, according to commission data.

In an effort to show that it is embracing the message of austerity, the commission proposed some uncomfortable changes for its own staff, such as increasing working hours for EU officials to 40 hours a week from 37.5 hours currently, lifting the retirement age to 65 from 63, and cutting 5 percent of staff by 2018.

For the first time, the commission is also hoping to raise money for pan-European infrastructure projects on financial markets through project bonds. Until now, the EU has not been allowed to take on debt or run a deficit, but the commission argues that issuing bonds for specific projects will increase the impact of its own funds.

Among the most controversial items in the seven-year budget is a tax on financial transactions, through which the EU hopes to lower contributions from member states. The commission only gave a broad outline for a financial transaction tax, but Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said such a levy could raise up to 30 billion a year.

Until plans for a financial transaction tax were revealed earlier this week, the EU had opposed its introduction in the EU only, saying that it could push banks and investment funds to move to financial hubs outside the bloc. Now, the commission hopes to encourage other states to opt for the tax by leading the way.

"Let's create our own and then see if we can create better conditions for a financial transaction tax on a global level," Barroso said.

The tax, together with changes to the way the EU collects its share of value-added tax, could more than double the EU's own resources to some 40 percent of the total budget, Lewandowski said.

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The Star Online: Sports

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NBA heads to deal deadline, sides far apart

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:49 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): The NBA is headed to deadline day, with perhaps one last chance to avoid a lockout.

Negotiators for owners and players will meet Thursday, about 12 hours before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and seemingly nowhere close to a deal.

The sides remain far apart on just about every major issue, from salaries to the salary cap, revenues to revenue sharing.

After meeting twice a week for most of the month, this is the only session scheduled this week. The two sides could continue bargaining past the deadline, but that probably requires owners to see evidence of the gap narrowing Thursday.

Otherwise, they could lock out the players for the first time since the 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games, though Commissioner David Stern has refused to say what would happen if a deal is not done Thursday.

"We're not going to negotiate in the media," he said Tuesday after meeting with owners. "We haven't before, we're not going to do it now. We're looking forward to having our discussion with the players."

There may not be much to discuss. Players declined to offer a new economic proposal in the most recent meeting Friday, and they may still feel their previous offer to reduce their salaries by $500 million over five years is going far enough.

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said the league didn't know if the players would make another proposal.

Both sides have moved, but not nearly far enough for the other.

Players still consider the owners' proposal for a "flex" cap, where each team would be targeted to spend $62 million, a hard cap because there is an eventual unspecified level that can't be exceeded. And though the league said total player compensation would never dip below $2 billion over the life of its proposed 10-year deal, that would amount to a pay cut for the players, who were paid more than $2.1 billion this season in salaries and benefits.

Owners have dropped their insistence that no contracts could be fully guaranteed, an issue the players strongly opposed.

"In this league, teams can easily just say, 'We don't want this guy on our team anymore."' I think the security of having that contract goes a long way because you're taking care of your family, you've got a lot of things you're doing and this is your way of living," All-Star Kevin Durant said.

"I think that's the biggest thing with us, having that security as a player, knowing coming in that you're guaranteed and you're straight. Hopefully we keep that."

Owners still want a reduction in the players' guarantee of 57 percent of basketball revenues. Players said their latest proposal would have taken them down to 54.3, but say the league's offer would have them down to around 40 percent.

The meeting Thursday will include just small groups from each side, after many players attended the last session. Without a deal, there will be no free agency starting Friday, and the summer league in Las Vegas has already been canceled.

Real games could be next to go. Stern has said the offers only get worse once a lockout has started, though there is still plenty of time even if nothing gets done Thursday.

"I don't see us missing any games. But I see it coming down to the wire, though," Milwaukee's Stephen Jackson said.

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David Hutsell wins PGA Professional

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:44 PM PDT

Published: Thursday June 30, 2011 MYT 8:38:00 AM
Updated: Thursday June 30, 2011 MYT 8:44:40 AM

HERSHEY, Pennsylvania (AP): David Hutsell won the 44th PGA Professional National Championship on Wednesday, beating Faber Jamerson with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff.

Hutsell, the 40-year-old PGA director of instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore, Maryland, closed with a 3-under 68 on the Hershey Country Club's East Course to match Jamerson (70) and Scott Erdmann (72) at 11-under 274.

Erdmann dropped out of the playoff with a bogey on the first extra hole.

The top 20 players earned spots in the PGA Championship on Aug. 11-14 at Atlanta Athletic Club.

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On 3rd heart, Compton on verge of fulfilling dream

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:36 PM PDT

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pennsylvania (AP): Erik Compton is among the elite on the PGA Tour this week at the AT&T National, even though he has been in a league of his own for about as long as he's been playing golf.

Compton is in the same group with Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan for the first two days at Aronimink. One of them is a former US Open champion who rose as high as No. 2 in the world. Another played in the Ryder Cup and won a World Golf Championship last year.

And the third?

"Everybody knows I'm the guy with two hearts," Compton said.

It's a story that has been told for the last three years, ever since the 31-year-old Compton again defied logic, if not death, by getting a second heart transplant and returning five months later to get through the first stage of Q-school.

And it keeps getting more amazing.

Compton shot a 65 on Sunday in the final round of the Mexican Open and won the Nationwide Tour event, moving him up to No. 2 on the money list and all but assuring he will finish among the top 25 this year and earn his card on the PGA Tour.

His identity won't change. He will always be the guy who after his second transplant said, "I've been dead. Twice."

Compton wouldn't have it any other way. The attention he receives whenever he plays allows him to spread the word on organ transplants, such as the heart he received when he was 12, and the second heart he was given on May 20, 2008.

"The doctors are shocked and people in the transplant world are shocked," Compton said. "I'm shocked because I always said I would be on tour and play, but now it's a reality. My dream is finally coming true, and it couldn't have happened at a better time. I have a new life and I have a bright future, and it's just ... I mean, it's just crazy. I can't even explain it."

It's even harder to fathom for those who have seen this story unfold.

Charlie DeLucca, head of the Dade Amateur Golf Association in Miami, still remembers when Compton showed up to play and his parents asked if he could take a pull cart. DeLucca was skeptical, unaware that the boy had been diagnosed at age 9 with cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart that hinders its ability to pump blood.

The first transplant occurred a few years later, and DeLucca figured he'd never see him again.

Compton, as he has done his entire life, proved otherwise.

"He's not even supposed to be here," DeLucca said. "He just never lost his determination."

DeLucca had his eyes glued to the Internet on Sunday as he tried to watch the scores being posted from the Mexican Open. There were a few glitches, and some uncertainty, until it was final. Compton was a winner, and on his way to the PGA Tour.

"The second greatest thing is that he won," DeLucca said. "The first great thing is he's alive. And now, we're really going to see what he's going to do. He's going to play on the biggest stage. He can play. It's not luck. He's been a winner all his life."

What happens this week is irrelevant.

Some players win for the first time on the PGA Tour and take the next week off to recover. Compton won in Mexico and flew to Philadelphia, but not before losing his wallet in the airport, leaving him no cash to get bottled water or a sandwich for the flight.

This will be his fifth straight week playing golf, and he has posted 12 of his last 16 rounds in the 60s. In four PGA Tour starts this year, he has made the cut every time.

The bigger picture is next year, when he gets a full year on the PGA Tour, allowing him to be slightly more selective and plan for more rest that he needs to accommodate a heart that has been in his body for only three years.

"I'm very comfortable with what I've been through and who I am as an individual, and I know that I'm going to get attention because of having the two heart transplants," he said. "I'm not so much of a sideshow freak anymore. I've proved that I can play on tour, so that does give a lot more confidence."

Even so, Compton still has a hard time believing everything that transpired. After the first transplant, he became the top-ranked junior in America and went to Georgia, eventually playing in the Walker Cup against a team that featured Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell. As a pro, he won tournaments in Canada and on the Hooters Tour, but he never made it to the big leagues. He had a heart attack in October 2007 and somehow drove himself to the hospital, narrowly avoiding death.

Doctors found a donor nearly 20 months later, and he went through a 14-hour operation. Everyone figured that was the end of his competitive golf, except for Compton.

"I made a call four months after my transplant to just about everybody in the country in golf and said that I was going to make a comeback, and there were very few people that were willing to take a chance on me," he said.

He had support of his parents and his wife, whom he met in the hospital.

Barbara was pregnant with a girl, Petra, as Compton was getting his second heart transplant. And there was Michael Hanzman, recently appointed a judge in Florida, who backed him financially and asked for nothing in return.

"I get chills thinking about it," he said.

Compton returns to Florida next week for an annual procedure to test the strength of his heart. He will take more breaks this year because he can, although it would help to stay as high on the Nationwide Tour money list to help his position in the big leagues next year.

But he still wants to play on the PGA Tour when he can get a sponsor's exemption.

Membership is nice. Compton wants to win. That's the next step.

Someone suggested that his story was worthy of a movie and asked Compton who should play the leading role. His friends have always said he looks like Paul Giamatti, and Compton said he saw the actor in the airport on his way to Mexico.

"I don't think there will be a movie," Compton said. "I think movies ... you have to have something that's maybe a little bit more unrealistic. Maybe if they make a fictional story and have me winning three US Opens or something."

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The Star Online: Nation

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Car driver killed in KL accident

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 07:04 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The driver of a car was killed after the vehicle went out of control and collided with another car at the Jalan Raja traffic intersection near Dataran Merdeka here Wednesday evening, police said.

Tan Aik Teong, 39, died on the spot after the Audi he was driving from the direction of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman spun and collided with a Proton Satria Neo car driven by Noreily Shafie, 28, from the direction of Jalan Puduraya, said Kuala Lumpur Traffic Investigation and Legal Staff Officer DSP Abdullah Roning.

Noreily was unhurt, he added.

Tan's body was sent to Kuala Lumpur Hospital. - Bernama

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Guidelines on carparks being finalised

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 06:51 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Housing and Local Government Ministry is in the process of finalising guidelines on carparks aimed at assisting state governments, local authorities and development implementing agencies in planning for and providing carparks.

Its minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung said the guidelines, among other things, encouraged the provision of a mechanical system of tiered carparks, which was a new approach in the designing of carparks.

The system must be extended to overcome the problems of shortage of carparks in areas with limited space such as low-cost apartments or flats, he said in his written reply to Hee Loy Sian (PKR-Petaling Jaya Selatan) in the Dewan Rakyat, here Wednesday. - Bernama

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PKFZ scandal: First phase cost RM400mil, court told

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:53 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: The first phase of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) development project cost RM400mil, the Sessions Court heard Wednesday.

Port Klang Authority (PKA) legal adviser Fazilah Surkisah Mohammad, 46, said the first phase involved a high-tech office, transhipment facilities, light and medium industries, warehouse and other components, which was a part of the six development agreements signed by the PKA.

Fazilah added that the project was developed on land that the PKA had bought from Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB).

She was the second prosecution witness to testify on the second day of the trial of former Kuala Dimensi project director Law Jenn Dong, 52, chief operating officer Stephen Abok, 52, and architect Bernard Tan Seng Swee, 49, of BTA Architect, who are accused involvement in the PKFZ financial scandal.

Kuala Dimensi was the turnkey developer for the PKFZ project while BTA Architect was the project consultant.

Law, Tan and Abok face multiple charges of cheating the PKA over electrical infrastructure work done for PKFZ.

The case came to light after the cost of developing the 400ha integrated cargo distribution hub ballooned from RM2bil to RM4.6bil.

During the examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Dzulkifli Ahmad, Fazilah said the idea behind PKFZ was to emulate the success of Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"The project was mooted by the then Transport Minister who went on a trip to Dubai in 1997.

"He had wanted the same concept for Port Klang, to turn it into a centre for cargo and to increase the volume and total of trade through Port Klang," she said.

Earlier, Companies Commission of Malaysia assistant registrar Salmah Hanum Ibrahim, 31, told the court that for information filed to the commission, it was common for a company to use its secretary's address as the company's business address.

When cross-examined by Laws defence counsel Tan Hock Chuan, Salmah confirmed that one Loh Yin Fun was the same secretary for four companies - Wijaya Baru Sdn Bhd, Valid Ventures Bhd, Free Zone Capital Bhd and PKFZ Sdn Bhd.

On Tuesday, Salmah testified that Kuala Dimensi and Wijaya Baru shared the same registered address in Kelana Jaya and same business address in Jalan Templer, Petaling Jaya.

She also agreed that Valid Ventures and Free Zone were fully owned by OSK Trustees Bhd.

On Nov 8, 2009, Law, Abok and Tan pleaded not guilty to 24 alternative charges of cheating OSK Trustees involving payment of RM116.85mil to Kuala Dimensi for two projects at PKFZ.

Abok and Tan pleaded not guilty to two other alternate charges of cheating OSK Trustees by dishonestly inducing OSK Trustees into believing that the 33KV system to Precinct 2 and Precinct 8 for the PKFZ project had been implemented.

The action resulted in OSK Trustees making payment of RM5.42mil to Kuala Dimensi.

Prior to this, Abok and Tan pleaded not guilty to two counts of cheating PKA by making false claims amounting to RM5.42mil on July 31 and Sept 21, 2007.

Tan and Law are charged with 24 counts of cheating PKA to obtain RM116.85mil for Kuala Dimensi involving two projects between June 30, 2006 and May 30, 2008.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Ziyi ponders career, love

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 08:44 PM PDT

Zhang Ziyi is in search of challenging movie roles and the perfect boyfriend.

CHINESE actress Zhang Ziyi, who was in Singapore for ScreenSingapore recently, is at a crossroads in career and love.

The 32-year-old, who has acted in Hollywood box office hits such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005), wants to take her time in choosing roles, especially where Hollywood is concerned.

In a one-on-one interview, the cheerful Beijing-born says in a mix of Mandarin and English: "I want to avoid taking on stereotypical Asian roles in Hollywood films because I think we can do better than that.

"I love big commercial films such as the James Bond series, Superman and Transformers. I wouldn't mind roles in those kinds of Hollywood movies. They are fun."

Zhang, who has just completed filming director Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmasters with Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chin Wai, adds: "I don't mind challenging roles in indie artsy films either. As an actress, I am now looking at more difficult roles or roles with more attitude or character. I will take my time and see what I want."

Her new film 'Til Death Do Us Part, about two AIDS patients who fall in love, opened in China last month and has earned US$10mil (RM30mil) at the box office so far.

The movie, co-starring Hong Kong star Aaron Kwok, was directed by Chinese film-maker Gu Changwei.

The actress is not worried about the movie's distribution in other countries, saying that even though it is a small movie, she is pleased with the final product.

She says: "Of course, it cannot compare with a big commercial release, but it is a meaningful movie. Not everyone enjoys this kind of artistic indie film but I am sure people who are passionate about movies will watch it."

She is all praise for Kwok, whom she describes as "very hardworking and meticulous" and "very professional, making the working experience great".

She hopes to follow in the footsteps of veteran Hollywood actresses such as Hilary Swank and work behind the scenes from time to time.

"I would like to try new things and I am interested in producing films as well, so I am not closing any options," says the award-winning actress, who made her movie debut in 1999 when she was 19 in famed director Zhang Yimou's The Road Home.

As for her love life, the newly single actress is quite clear about what she is looking for.

She was in a long-term relationship with Israeli billionaire Vivi Nevo until they split late last year. They reportedly broke up due to cultural differences.

She says: "My ideal boyfriend is someone who I can connect with. I want to be able to communicate well with him and have endless fresh topics to talk about every day.

"We must be able to connect spiritually.

"No matter how successful a woman is in her career, when she goes home, she is just an ordinary, simple girl who wants to chat with her boyfriend." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

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America Ferrera weds longtime boyfriend

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 07:18 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): America Ferrera is a married lady. People magazine's website says the 27-year-old "Ugly Betty" star and longtime boyfriend Ryan Piers Williams were wed Monday night in "an intimate setting" with close friends and family in attendance.

A representative for Ferrera confirmed the report Tuesday.

Ferrera won an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her portrayal of Betty Suarez on ABC's "Ugly Betty."

The couple met at the University of Southern California when Williams cast her in his student film.

They became engaged last year.

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Veteran actor: Pay P. Ramlee’s family royalty

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 04:00 PM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: The family and next-of-kin of legendary Tan Sri P. Ramlee should be given a certain amount of royalty for his films that are now being shown over television, veteran actor Datuk Mustapha Maarof said.

"I believe the parties involved should allocate a portion of the royalty for his family members," Mustapha said yesterday.

He was responding to reports that family members of the Malay-sian entertainment icon had not been paid any royalties for his films aired on television.

Mustapha, 76, had earlier given a keynote address on the multi-talented star of the Malay movie industry in conjunction with Hari Seniman (Artistes Day) at Univer-siti Sains Malaysia (USM).

The event was organised by the National Archives and USM to introduce an academic approach to the event.

Highlights of the day included an academic discussion on the contributions of P. Ramlee as well as the impact he made on the local film industry.

Mustapha, who has acted in over 50 films, said P. Ramlee's family members deserved royalty payments on the extra income generated from television rights.

"Nobody, including Shaw Bro-thers which holds the rights to P. Ramlee's movies, predicted that his movies would be aired over television in many countries years after his death in 1973," he said.

Lawyer Datuk Hamzah Mohd Kassim, who is representing P. Ramlee's grandchildren, said the family members had so far only received about RM200,000 from recording companies that played the filmmaker and songwriter's songs last year.

It is learnt that recently a cross-media group with significant pre-sence in DTH (direct-to-home) TV services, paid Shaw Brothers – the major Malay film producer from the 40s to the 60s – several millions of ringgit for the rights to air P. Ramlee's movies over three years.

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Dance elements to be included in gymnastics festival

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:35 AM PDT

A NEW concept will be introduced for the 24th Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur Gymnastics Association Gymnastics Festival at the Mines Exhibition and Convention Centre in Seri Kembangan on Sunday.

The organisers, in their bid to encourage mass participation from all ages for the upcoming one-day all-local affair, have renamed it the "Gym For Life Challenge" replacing the previous gymnaestrada contest.

Event official Chong Siew Han said participants will be combining gymnastics moves with dance elements in their group routines.

"It will be a fun-filled outing for the teams. Besides using the gymnastics as an avenue to promote physical fitness, we want them to foster closer ties through the annual event.

"It will be a great family activity with parents teaming up with their children for the competition," he added.

The organisers are focusing on attracting local entries because of the increase in foreign competitors for the Inter-City Gymnastics Championships over the past two decades.

They only included the rhythmic competitions for several age-groups in the Inter-City programme held earlier this year.

"We have created another event (Gym For Life Challenge) to generate greater following among Malaysians. It is an open event without age limit comprising a total of four categories. From previous edition, the primary school pupils have stepped up to the challenge and pulled off tricky skills beyond their age under the supervision of their coaches. They might not be as strong physically compared to the secondary school students and adults but we are expecting them to produce energetic displays,'' said Chong.

The two different segments for each age section are a combination of freehand-light apparatus and heavy apparatus.

Teams will have to field a minimum of 10 performers in their line-up.

For both segments (combination of freehand-light apparatus and heavy apparatus), the two separate groups are teams with less than 20 members and more than 20 performers.

And the winners of the four categories will earn a place to show their skills at the Gym for Life Gala.

Considering the previous event drew 21 teams, the organisers are anticipating 30 teams to sign up for the occasion.

Teams will have to convince the four judges with four important aspects - entertainment value, innovation, techniques and overall impression - in their less than five-minute routines.

"There is no fixed routine. It will be interesting for teams to impress the judges and spectators with their own unique ideas and choreograph their original moves. The two freehand-light apparatus categories would attract more entries because it is easier to handle. It is more complicated to set up bulky objects for the heavy apparatus on the competition arena.

"The competition is about forging good teamwork in their performances. Besides the artistic and rhythmic gymnasts, the cheerleaders with gymnastics background will also have the advantage," Chong said.

Entry fee is RM10 for each competitor in the team. For details, call 017-369 5999 or e-mail to pgwpkl@gmail.com

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Alif Asraf hopes to shine at international meet

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 05:35 AM PDT

ALIF ASRAF MOHD RAZALI is all game for a new challenge in his athletics career. The youngster will be aiming for a personal best in the International Association Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Youth championships in Lille, France from July 6-10.

Alif Asraf is Malaysia's sole representative in the championships and will be lining up in the men's 110m hurdles in France. He earned the right to take part in the championships after clocking a personal best of 14.01s in the South East Asian Junior championships in Jakarta last month.

In the championships, Alif Asraf beat the qualifying mark of 14.45s enroute to his silver medal.

For the 17-year-old youngster, a Form Five student at the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), the World Youth championships will be a platform to gauge himself against some of the top juniors in the world.

"I know what lies ahead. It is not going to be an easy task. But I am working diligently on my techniques to put up a good show in France,'' said Alif Asraf after a training session at the National Sports Council (NSC) training centre in Bukit Jalil recently.

* Full story in The Star today

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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A brave new world

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 05:40 PM PDT

A caregiver takes on the challenges of maintaining a quality life for her loved one who is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease.

WHEN my mother started talking to her dentures recently, I stayed calm. When she used her comb to scratch her body, I kept my cool. Even when I discovered a tiny growth peeking out of the crack of her bum, I remained collected, writing it off as a pile.

However, when the "peekaboo pile" grew increasingly bigger, I panicked, much like I did four years ago when Mum first lost recognition of me. With hindsight this time around, I managed to get Mum to hospital for a medical examination within the week. But it was with great difficulty that the gynaecologists "confirmed" her condition. It was a uterine prolapse.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1998 at age 66, Mum is what the doctors call "an uncooperative patient". On the day of the medical examination, she stared menacingly at the male gynae when we tried to coax her into the "supine" position as required for such a procedure. There was no way he could "get in".

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You may say I'm a dreamer
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You may say I’m a dreamer

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 05:19 PM PDT

Imagine all the people living in an Alzheimer's world – and make it a better place.

AS an Alzheimer's patient enters the later stages of the illness, more behavioural and psychological problems may manifest. They may also be afflicted by other medical conditions which may entail surgery.

Treatment of the other ailments may be compounded by Alzheimer's disease (AD) and management of AD may be aggravated by the other ailments.

Some of the challenging manifestations include hallucination, delusion, delirium and catastrophic reactions.

Dr Suraya Yusoff, a consultant psychiatrist (Geriatric Psychiatry) from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Hospital Sultan Ismail, Johor Baru, gives the low-down on these conditions.

*Full story in The Star today

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A brave new world

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De-liver me from illness

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 04:32 PM PDT

The liver is a workhorse of an organ that exceeds even the heart in terms of sheer workload. Unfortunately, with modern day lifestyles, it has become prone to becoming 'fat'.

IN an exercise of gratitude, let us place our left hand just over the lower ribs, on the right chest wall, and whisper, "Thank you, liver ... for all the things you have done in the past, is doing in the present, and will do in the future ... and I will not abuse you again."

This reddish brown triangular organ may not pulsate nor gyrate, but it works harder than the heart, carrying out more than 500 known functions, and perhaps thousands more yet to be discovered.

Some of the more important roles include handling the nourishment and garbage that comes in from the mouth, neutralising drugs, toxins and poisons, replenishing enzymes and hormones, producing bile for digestion, storing ready energy (glycogen) for any sudden need, ensuring we do not bleed to death, etc ... the list is exhaustive.

Architecturally intricate, the liver cells are arranged in compartments, with blood vessels and bile channels crisscrossing like flyovers and underpasses that can be a model for townplanning.

A diseased delicacy

The Spy Who Loved Me chased after the bad hats and birds in skirts in his heyday. Today, Sir Roger Moore is still chasing birds (of a different kind), and screaming "fowl" over the mistreatment of ducks and geese harvested for foie gras.

In a documentary, he narrated the story of the depths of cruelty that these animals endured in captivity, the graphic nature of which is beyond the scope of this discussion (google foie gras/PETA/Roger Moore ... bon app├ętit).

In the final stages of fattening the liver, the birds are caged tightly and forcefed via a long tube that is inserted into the oesophagus, where a ball of high-starch feed is pumped into the stomach. The liver gradually and painfully balloons up with fat, enlarging to many times its normal size. Eventually, it ends up on a plate, a gourmet offering that literally melts like butter on the palate. This expensive delicacy is biologically an abnormal and diseased organ, called fatty liver.

Some members of the homo sapien family do have some similarities to our incarcerated feathered cousins, with one or two exceptions. Although not caged, a sedentary lifestyle sets the stage for obesity. Food of high caloric value and in excess amounts finds its way down the gullet without much compulsion. Foie gras of the human liver has become a fashionable and popular addition to the menu of chronic diseases of modern man.

The popular trend of undergoing annual medical check-ups is undoubtedly a wise move. In the minds of most, the purpose is to seek out trouble that may need rectification. Obviously, if a pressing problem is found, urgent and decisive treatment is warranted.

What if parameters like blood pressure, cholesterol, fats (triglyceride), blood sugar, etc, are only marginally above the upper limit (referred to as borderline)? What does one make of the instance of mildly elevated liver enzymes (AST, ALT and GGT)? What about that ultrasound report that is "normal", except for the fine print that mentions a fatty liver?

Apart from a slight protuberance at the belly, there are no detectable signs or symptoms of the disease. Jokes abound about expanding waistlines, but this is no laughing matter as it is certainly a bag of trouble.

Interestingly, many a time, the medical report is forgotten, spawning complacency. Come the next and following years, the diligent process of "screening" is repeated, and the same findings are presented, with a sense of satisfaction that "everything is still ok".

What is generally not appreciated is that the earlier medical test results that first implicated fatty liver is a harbinger of a family of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and liver failure, if left unattended.

The fatty liver

One of the major functions of the liver is to process the oils that we imbibe. As an in-house refinery, it transforms the fats into useful components (yes, like cholesterol) to be distributed to various tissues in the body for usage or storage.

If the fat content in the liver exceeds 10% of its weight, then fatty liver takes centre stage. It is then not only a factory, but a warehouse for fats as well. Alcohol, by its injurious effects, causes fatty liver (alcoholic fatty liver disease), but many teetotalers also harbor a similar condition. Non-drinkers with butter livers are said to have "non-alcoholic fatty liver disease", or NAFLD for short.

In our own backyard, we are facing an escalating weight problem, with the incidence of overweight (BMI 25 to 30) in adults doubling over the last 20 years (it now hovers around 30%). At this alarming rate, one can estimate the incidence of fatty liver to be at least one in 10 adults.

The root cause of NAFLD is overindulgence in the wrong kind of carbohydrates and fatty foods. Foods that spike the blood sugar (known as high glycaemic index items) are the kind of choices we make repeatedly on a daily basis, such as rice (especially Jasmine rice), white bread, potatoes, etc.

What goes up comes down even faster, as the blood sugar crashes. This is the result of an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas in a hurried attempt to normalise blood sugar.

However, due to a sedentary lifestyle, the blood sugar is not utilised and converts to fat, distributed to the middle (known as visceral or "hidden fat"). The fat cells in the tummy become so overfilled that excess literally drips out into the circulation to lodge at the next port of call, namely the liver.

Hence, fat begins to accumulate in the liver cells (steatosis), interfering with the many functions it has to perform.

Bashed by NASH

Of course, we can choose not to make a change to the recipe for better health. Sticking to the old ingredients is the perfect plan for undesired outcomes.

Fatty liver is relatively harmless in the early stages, but storing highly combustible material in the wrong place is hazardous over prolonged periods. The liver cells are not fat cells and are not meant to keep the excess fat. Forcing them to accumulate the fuel against their will eventually make them unhappy. They soon start a fire.

Fat in the right places can be burned for energy, but in a depot like the liver, the unstable fat stores undergo oxidation (peroxidation) and generate toxic chemicals that injure the surrounding tissues, setting up an inflammatory reaction.

The presence of fatty liver with inflammation is called NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). The blood test results are now not so okay, with the liver enzymes beginning to climb. The organ swells up, and now there might be a slight discomfort, over where the palm of gratitude was previously placed (refer to the opening sentence).

In the presence of repeated and prolonged inflammation, the liver structure loses its architecture, and normal tissue is replaced by fibrous strands. Eventually, the liver shrinks and hardens as cirrhosis sets in.

The organ is now unable to cope with all the demands placed on it, and begins to malfunction, a state known as liver failure. The outlook appears bleak, with a host of nasty complications waiting to explode.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a spectrum ranging from mild fatty change to liver inflammation (NASH), eventually culminating into cirrhosis.

In the early and mild fatty liver stages, there is nothing much the medical caregiver can offer, except healthy lifestyle advice and good information. Throwing the switch for change is a personal choice. Unfortunately, many eventually contribute to statistics of modern disease because doing the right things can be difficult for some.

Although there are no specific medications, lifestyle change must be instituted so that early fatty liver can be reversed.

The ideal pattern of behaviour to ameliorate fatty liver involves a triad of:

> Exercise, at least 30 minutes daily.

> Select low glycaemic foods, keeping to good fats below 30% of caloric value.

> Supplementation based on scientific evidence (beware of poorly standardised herbal extracts and products with purity concerns, as these can potentially add to the toxic burden on the liver).

Taking smaller, frequent meals is better than large feasts as this places less demands on insulin, thereby avoiding large swings in sugar levels. Empty calories (eg carbonated beverages) and calorie-dense foods (eg muffins) just pile on the numbers, but do not contribute any significant nutritional value.

Choice of supplements should include broad spectrum antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Glutathione is an important antioxidant enzyme (especially in liver cells), which require selenium, N-acetyl cysteine and other members of the antioxidant team to be replenished.

A bioflavanoid extracted from the seed of the milk thistle plant has shown promising results.

Alpha-lipoic acid works in concert with the other members of the antioxidant orchestra, enhancing the defences and recycling vitamin C, E, glutathione and co-enzyme Q10.

The danger of misreading information like this may spur the reader to trot off to the nearest pharmacy and fill up the shopping basket. The dosage, balance and ratios of nutrients must be safe and effective.

Seek advice from a nutritionally interested professional, rather than a DIY jigsaw puzzle.

Modern day livers are as stressed as the owners. The poor organ is working overtime, but we relentlessly choke it with processed foods, fake foods, drugs, alcohol, and what not. If ducks in the foie gras farm could talk, they would quack, "Stop the torture!"

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

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