Isnin, 4 Julai 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Swamp Brothers: Reptile wranglers

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 04:20 PM PDT

Reality TV series Swamp Brothers follows the adventures of two brothers and their dealings with dangerous animals.

ROBBIE and Stephen Keszey are undoubtedly one of the most unlikely pairs of brothers.

Robbie has a penchant for reptiles whereas his younger brother is herpetophobic (fears reptiles). With such different personalities, it remains a mystery how the duo run their business – Glades Herp Farms, Florida's largest reptile sanctuary and exotic reptile dealership.

"Unlike me, Robbie is comfortable with dangerous reptiles. When I was seven years old, a python bit my nose. The frightening incident left an imprint in my memory and since then, I have been terrified of snakes," said Stephen in a long distance call from their farmhouse in Bushnell, Florida, recently.

Robbie chipped in: "Yes, Stephen is very scared of snakes. We're trying to change him into a man. Sometimes, I think I have a sister named Stephanie instead of a brother named Stephen."

Their friendly banter (and more) is part of new reality TV series Swamp Brothers, premiering tonight on Animal Planet (Astro Channel 556). The 26-episode series follows the Keszey brothers' adventures capturing pythons, crocodiles and rogue bobcats, and returning them to a safer environment without losing a limb (or life) in the process.

The season's premiere puts the brothers in dangerous alligator territory. Stephen tries to distract an aggressive mother alligator while Robbie attempts to save her eggs from being eaten by wildlife.

The first episode also zooms in on Stephen's careless mistake of admitting wild hogs into the farm. And there's more – Stephen turns white (no pun intended) when he comes face-to-face with snakes.

"If a snake bites me, I still jump and yell, despite having protective gloves on. My brother laughs at me because he can't believe I'm still like this. Since joining the farm, I've been trying to work with snakes. So far, I have started being 'friendly' with non-venomous, colubrid snakes. I don't know if I'll ever go to the venomous one, but I'm slowly moving on to bigger ones," confessed the 42-year-old who worked as a bartender for 15 years before joining the farm.

In 2009, Stephen quit his bartending job in the Big Apple to help Robbie care for their ailing mother and help with office work. After their mother's demise last year, Stephen was roped in to help with the animals.

Heavily tattooed Robbie, 45, shares a different story. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles to play bass in a rock band and became personal assistant to C. C. Deville, lead guitarist of glam rock band Poison.

Eventually realising his true passion was for wildlife and reptiles, Robbie moved to Florida and set up Glades Herp Farm, bringing with him his rock 'n' roll attitude and a penchant for living on the edge.

The father of three is a herpetofauna expert who specialises in crocodiles and venomous snakes. The Keszey brothers' farm also houses exotic animal species from Florida's International Teaching Zoo.

"I developed a passion for animals when I was about five years old. My parents had a big piece of land and I used to catch different animals like turtles, frogs and reptiles. It is my dream to open a zoo and educate people on animal conservation.

"I'd like to teach people that the fear of reptiles is a learned trait, not something you were born with. There really is nothing to be afraid of if you respect animals," explained Robbie.

Although Stephen is fearful of getting hurt, he has gained some reptile knowledge from his brother.

"I want to be like Indiana Jones, but once I am on top of an alligator, I feel like Jerry Lewis or Lucille Ball, crying and screaming for help. Ironically, I like dangerous adventures and the adrenaline rush despite being scared," said Stephen, an Ohio State University graduate.

Robbie chipped in: Stephen has made tremendous progress with reptiles but has a long way to go. It really helps that his heart and interest are with the animals. His perseverance keeps him going. But, remember, I call him Stephanie every time he whines."

Swamp Brothers premieres tonight (10pm) on Animal Planet (Astro Ch 556) with repeats every Saturday (noon and 11pm) and Monday (midnight).

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Mission implausible

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 04:18 PM PDT

Suspending disbelief can sometimes become a strenuous mental exercise.

NO, way! That's just toooooo ridiculous! Have you ever found yourself reacting that way to a TV show? All the time, right? And we're not only talking about shows like The Bold And The Beautiful – although that one takes the cake for storylines that are (way) out there.

Talk about enduring relationships: Ridge and Brook have been in love with each other since we were teenagers. We are ... (ahem) much older now and they're still hooking-up only to break up and hook up again.

Okay, that's not too unreal, but what about Brook marrying Ridge's father and brother in the interim? Come on! Are there only 22 people in Beverly Hills? The incestuous relationships on the series are just plain bizarre.

So, yes, Indra watches The Bold And The Beautiful (or at least she used to until it was unceremoniously yanked from the screen) and ridiculous as it may be, the daytime soap isn't the only programme on TV that is full of improbabilities.

Let's take a popular present-day drama series as an example: Grey's Anatomy. When have you ever been to a hospital and seen so many beautiful people? From interns to nurses to doctors and even patients: so many lovely-looking people fill up the halls of Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital.

Small matter? Okay, how about the ghostly love affair between Izzy Stevens and Denny Duquette in Season Five? Although the writers covered up the sick story arch with Izzy's brain tumour (hence her hallucinations), it was just too ridiculous a pill to swallow.

Still not convinced that Grey's Anatomy deserves an eye roll? How about this: Season 2, Episode 6 – two patients who get impaled after a train wreck are rushed into the E.R. and guess what? They're still talking to each other (with just slight grimaces). Come on, already. A staple in our finger and we're ready to faint!

Even medical drama House M.D. deserves a "huh?" every now and then.

Why is it never lupus? Right? And how is it all the patients know exactly what the doctors are talking about ... when most of us go 'what did he just say?'

Do they teach kids the different types of infectious diseases in American schools or something?

By the way, the beautiful people observation holds true for police and lawyers and heck, even crime scene investigators. When did they all get to be so darn good looking?

And the "how did everyone get so clued in on medical jargon" applies to other subjects as well – for instance in Numb3rs, Charlie Eppes and Dr Fleinhardt do go on about Applied Mathematics and everyone seems to be able to follow and worse, accept their way-out theories. Ditto forensic science.

At least on shows like the X-Files and Fringe, the theories are so far-fetched you don't really have to understand them completely ... they're out there, and you only need to "want to believe".

While we're on the subject though, ever noticed how Fox Mulder was colour blind ... but if that were the case he could never have been an FBI agent? Just saying.

Now, onto some general observations.

How come on TV, people always find parking spaces right in front of where they're supposed to go? And how come they never lock their cars after they park? And why do people still leave their car keys neatly tucked away in their sun guards – don't they watch TV? Don't they know that's how all the cars get stolen?

While we're on the subject, do you know even one single person who can hotwire a car or pick a lock, or for that matter, bake the perfect chocolate souffle?

At the rate it happens on TV, you'd expect every one in three people to have this skill.

Another pet peeve: How come women on TV look so good when they wake up from sleep? Yeah, yeah, We know make-up is necessary but can't they make it a teensy bit more realistic? Do they shower with their make-up on too?

In a world of Desperate Housewives, it would seem like women have the uncanny ability to do it all – from vacuuming and scrubbing toilets to jogging, gardening and romping around in bed – with nary a drop of sweat falling from their beautifully groomed brows.

And let's not forget about Superman in The Adventures Of Lois & Clark (and as a character in general). Seriously, can a superhero hide his identity with a pair of dark-rimmed spectacles? Lois, look harder ...

Why have we all stood for this flimsiest of disguises all these years? What force compels us to accept that Lois never knows Clark Kent is Superman? Does the man from Krypton have control over her thoughts too? He is Superman, after all. And then there's the undies on the outside ... why?

Superheroes and their supercostumes ... now, don't get us started.

Take The Incredible Hulk, for example. Granted, some of us (read: Ann Marie) may have grown up being totally smitten by Bill Bixby (as Dr David Banner), but that didn't stop us from wondering how his pant-seams would never bust at the waist ... Lou Ferrigno (aka Hulk) is a professional bodybuilder who stands at 1.96m and weighed a good 130kg in the 1970s. The shirts would rip apart instantaneously, and even the legs of the pants would shred. But there was something magical about how he never got completely free of those pants. Rest assured the Conspiracy of the Incredible (Hulk) Pants will continue to generate a lot of discussion for years to come.

While we're in the 1970s, does anyone remember Patrick Duffy, in his pre Dallas days? Does the name Mark Harris ring any bells?

Yep, though it was a short-lived series, Man From Atlantis kind of left an indelible mark in our memory. But the point of bringing him up is to ask, where on earth did he stash those yellow trunks of his? Did he just constantly wear them? And why would a man from the lost world of Atlantis – who had webbed hands and gills so he could breathe underwater – wear yellow trunks?

We have other gripes about clothes – like how the people in Lost can stand the stench ... I mean none of them ever changes right?

And on the other end of the spectrum, we have the likes of the women in Sex And The City and Friends who absolutely never wear the same outfit twice. Ever.

And then there is 24. Our colleague Mumtaj Begun has an unanswered question about the series. She loves the show but wonders how come Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer never has to go to the loo.

After all, the show is supposed to count down every minute of the hour. So, how come he never needs to pee?

A weird observation, but one that caught Mumtaj's attention simply because she has the opposite problem – she racks up frequent flyer points at the ladies.

Looks like we've rambled on long enough now that we've broached toilet habits. Write to us at if you have any strange things that go on in TV stories that you'd like to share.

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The Star Online: World Updates

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Gazprom delegation visits North Korea - KCNA

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 08:42 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - A delegation from Russia's Gazprom has visited North Korea, North Korea's central news agency reported late on Monday.

The trip follows a reported recent visit by Russia's spy chief to the North Korean capital to discuss economic projects involving North and South Korea, the world's second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyer after Japan.

Gazprom Chairman Viktor Zubkov (R) and CEO Alexei Miller applaud during the company's annual meeting in Moscow June 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin)

"A delegation of Gazprom of Russia led by Deputy Managing Chairman Alexandr Ananenkov arrived here Monday," KCNA said, without elaborating.

According to a report by the Interfax news agency in May Foreign Intelligence Service director Mikhail Fradkov and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il discussed projects including a railway junction, a gas pipeline and a power line from Russia to South Korea via North Korea.

Russia and North Korea share a short border, but ties worsened and trade fell steeply after the collapse of the Communist Soviet Union in 1991.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il cancelled a visit to Russia last week because of worries about security following media reports about the trip, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported last Thursday.

(Reporting by Cho Mee-young; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Tanks surround Syrian city of Hama after protests

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 07:41 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian tanks surrounded Hama on Tuesday, residents and activists said, threatening a large-scale assault on the city after the biggest protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Hundreds of youths blocked roads leading to the city's main residential neighbourhoods with garbage containers, wood and metal to try to prevent a possible advance. Inhabitants joined in their shouts of "God is greatest," from balconies and rooftops, residents said.

Tanks and armoured vehicles moved overnight to the edges of the city, including 30 seen near a flyover on a road leading west, they said, a day after hundreds of troops and security police entered Hama at dawn in buses, killing at least three people in raids on main neighbourhoods.

Hama, scene of a bloody crackdown by Assad's father nearly 30 years ago, has witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations and highest death tolls in Syria's 14-week uprising, inspired by revolts across the Arab world.

"Assad may wait to see whether large-scale protests in Hama continue. He knows that using military aggression against peaceful demonstrations in a symbolic place like Hama would lose him support even from Russia and China," Syrian activist Mohammad Abdallah told Reuters from exile in Washington.

The two countries have opposed a United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by the West against Syria, helping Assad withstand mounting international isolation.

Abdallah said using tanks to attack Hama would "totally discredit" a promise by Assad to seek dialogue with his opponents. Troops and armour were already assaulting villages and towns in the Jabal-al-Zawya region, north of Hama, which had also seen large protests against Assad's 11-year rule, he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said tanks stormed the town of Kfar Nubbul early on Tuesday "without meeting a single shot in the town that has seen peaceful protests since the beginning of the uprising."

One month ago, security forces shot dead at least 60 protesters in Hama, activists said. The security presence later eased and last Friday a crowd of at least 150,000 people rallied in a central Hama square demanding Assad go, according to activists.

The following day, Assad sacked the provincial governor and on Monday residents said troops and police poured into Hama to carry out arrests.

The three people killed by the security forces included a 13-year-old boy and a man whose body had been dumped in the Orontes river, a doctor in Hama said. Residents said some of the soldiers and police opened fire in residential neighbourhoods and carried out arrests across the city.


Young men, some carrying stones, blocked roads leading to central neighbourhoods with burning tyres and garbage containers, they added.

Rami Abdelrahman, president of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters that at least 250 people were arrested across Hama on Monday.

"The regime could not stand the large, peaceful protests and the fact that the governor did little to stop them. It has decided to subdue Hama one way or the other," he said.

The authorities have banned most international media from operating in Syria since the protests began in March, making it difficult to verify reports from activists and authorities.

Rights groups say Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 1,300 civilians across the country since the protests started and arrested over 12,000, with several troops and police officers killed for refusing to fire at civilians. Authorities say 500 police and soldiers have been killed by gunmen, who they blame for most civilian deaths.

Assad has promised a national dialogue with the opposition to discuss political reform in Syria, which has been under the iron rule of the Baath Party for nearly 50 years.

Many opposition figures reject dialogue while the killings and arrests continue. The United States said last week Assad was running out of time to allow a serious political process, and would otherwise face increasingly organised resistance.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, an ally of Assad who has grown more critical, said in May: "We do not want to see another Hama massacre" and warned the Syrian leader that it would be hard to contain the consequences if it were repeated.

Assad's father Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000, sent troops into Hama in 1982 to crush an Islamist-led uprising in the city, where the Fighting Vanguard, the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, made its last stand.

That attack killed many thousands, possibly up to 30,000, and one slogan constantly shouted by Hama protesters in the last several weeks was "damn your soul Hafez", a reminder of the scar still etched in the memory of the city of 650,000 people.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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Japan reconstruction minister quits in fresh blow to PM

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 07:41 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Beleaguered Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan took another blow on Tuesday when his reconstruction minister resigned after barely a week in the job over criticism for remarks that offended victims of the March earthquake and tsunami.

Japan's newly appointed reconstruction minister Ryu Matsumoto is mobbed by the media as he leaves a news conference after resigning his post in Tokyo July 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao)

The outcry among opposition parties over Ryu Matsumoto's comments had threatened to further hinder the unpopular Kan's efforts to pass key bills in a divided parliament as Japan tries to rebuild from the disasters and end a nuclear crisis.

Analysts said the government probably hoped that Matsumoto's quick resignation would avoid further deadlock over a $25 billion extra budget to aid disaster-hit areas and a compensation scheme for victims of the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power's tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan.

But the furore over Matsumoto, who was also doubling as environment minister, could put added pressure on the prime minister to step down himself.

Kan last month survived a no-confidence vote by pledging to quit but has since blurred the timing of his resignation.

"The (opposition) Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito may be tempted to say that Kan should go right now and until he goes, we're not doing anything," said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano.

Matsumoto, visiting the tsunami-hit regions on Sunday, had told Miyagi Prefecture Governor Yoshihiro Murai that the government would not help communities that failed to come up with ideas themselves.

Speaking before TV cameras, Matsumoto reprimanded Murai for keeping him waiting and then ordered journalists not to report the exchange, warning that their companies would suffer if they did.

Kan will now have to find another candidate to fill the post in charge of Japan's biggest reconstruction project since the years after World War Two, a costly effort that will add to a public debt already worth twice Japan's $5 trillion economy.

Kan, under fire for his handling of the nuclear crisis, has said he wants to stay in his post until three bills are passed: the small extra budget, legislation to allow fresh borrowing to fund about 40 percent of this year's budget, and measures to promote renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power as Japan tries to wean itself from nuclear power.

Opposition parties argue that Kan should keep his promise to quit soon, and are pressing the ruling Democratic Party to revise costly spending pledges before helping to pass the deficit-bond issuance bill and are expected to come up with counter-proposals on steps to promote renewable energy.

(Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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African Bank: Unrest in north has hit growth

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 06:09 PM PDT

JOHANNESBURG: The turmoil in North Africa is hampering economic growth across the continent but is also inspiring democratic change elsewhere, the chief economist of the Africa Development Bank said Monday.

In a speech, Mthuli Ncube said the unrest in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia is likely to reduce economic growth in North Africa this year to 0.7 percent from 4.7 percent last year. Overall, Africa's growth is estimated at 3.7 percent in 2011, down from 4.9 percent last year.

Further south, Ncube said economies have been affected by a drop in money sent home by Africans from elsewhere on the continent who had been working in North Africa. Niger, for example, had 200,000 citizens working in oil-rich Libya, according to bank statistics.

Another knock has come from the reduction in Libyan investment across Africa as well as declining numbers of Libyan tourists within Africa, Ncube said.

But he said that while the economic impact was painful, the long-term effect of political changes made it worthwhile.

"Democracy is far more important," Ncube said.

He noted that protests last month forced Senegal's longtime president to cancel a proposed legislative change that would have made it easier for his son to take charge of the West African nation.

"It was really the North Africa effect," Ncube said. "The youth will not tolerate any behavior they don't perceive as democratic."

Ncube also cited Morocco, which has seen protests calling for change even though the king remains popular. The king presented a new constitution, approved by 98 percent of voters last week, designed to curtail his powers and make his government more accountable.

Ncube said the large number of unemployed youth, who used social networks to organize, helped drive protests that forced out a president in Tunisia and were followed by uprisings around the Arab world.

Sub-Saharan African countries with high unemployment should also be wary, Ncube said. He noted in an interview with The Associated Press after his speech Monday that former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa - which is struggling to cut unemployment, particularly among the young - was ousted in 2008 by his own African National Congress in campaign led by the party's youth wing. That might have been democratic South Africa's version of upheavals in the north, Ncube said.

South Africa, the continent's strongest economy, has suffered from the global recession more than other African economies, and is recovering more slowly, according to the annual economic outlook the African Development Bank released Monday. Its GDP is expected to grow 3.6 percent this year.

Ncube said South Africa should draw lessons from Nigeria, where growth predicted at 6.9 percent in 2011 is tied in part to reforms that have encouraged entrepreneurship. Or from Kenya, where growth predicted at 5.3 percent is linked to East Africa's progress in creating a regional market and improving infrastructure.

Ncube also cautioned South Africa against nationalizing mines and other industries, a proposal pushed by younger ANC members but opposed by key party leaders and by businesses.

"Nationalization, it's not a good idea," Ncube told the AP. "Governments themselves do not create jobs. They create an environment for jobs to be created." - AP

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Saab's US$40mil property sale progresses

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 06:05 PM PDT

STOCKHOLM: The European Investment Bank on Monday approved Saab's plan to improve its ailing finances with a US$40 million deal to sell and lease back property.

If the deal is also approved by Sweden's government and the national debt office, which is expected, Saab will have cleared a key hurdle in its attempts to resolve a cash shortage that has left it struggling to pay suppliers and staff.

EIB spokesman Par Isaksson said the bank, from which Saab has borrowed money, approved the agreement to sell a 50.1 percent in Saab's property, including its production plant in Trollhattan to Swedish real estate company Hemfosa. Saab's owner, Swedish Automobile, intends to sign a 15-year lease agreement so that it can continue to use the property.

Saab's production has been at a standstill for months. Last week, the company said it aims to resume production within two weeks, but workers remained idle Monday and will go on two weeks scheduled vacation July 25.

Earlier Monday, Saab said it aims to set up a joint venture with China's Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. to design a small Saab model called 9-1, and two larger designs called 9-6 and 9-7.

Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs said those plans are at an early stage and it remains unclear when the cars could reach the market.

Youngman will provide financing for the joint venture while Saab will be responsible for developing the models.

"We will now be able to develop a small entry level Saab, a car that has long been on the top of our wish list," the CEO of Saab-owner Swedish Automobile, Victor Muller said in a statement.

Swedish Automobile NV, previously known as Spyker Cars, also said it has completed a previously announced 245 million ($356 million) deal to make Youngman and another Chinese firm, Pang Da Automobile Trade Co, part-owners in Swedish Automobile. The deal still requires regulatory approval.

It said the agreement also allows for Russian investor Vladimir Antonov to become part-owner of Swedish Automobile, if he obtains the necessary regulatory approvals.

Antonov has said he wants to inject between $50 million and $150 million into Saab, but is still waiting for an approval from the European Investment Bank.

The Russian was forced out of Spyker amid reports of money laundering when Spyker bought Saab from General Motors in 2010. He has denied those allegations and has never been charged.

EIB's spokesman, Isaksson declined to comment on that process Monday.

Shares in Swedish Automobile rose by 17.3 percent to 2.94 ($4.27) on the Amsterdam stock exchange. - AP

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China pledges to boost restive west's development

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 05:59 PM PDT

BEIJING: The governor of China's restive western region wants to boost its economy by further opening it up to external trade and investment, state media said Monday, the eve of the second anniversary of the region's worst ethnic violence in over a decade.

Gov. Nur Bekri said he would promote Xinjiang's foreign trade and economic cooperation with neighboring countries, work on establishing special economic zones in the cities of Kashgar and Horgos and attract domestic and foreign investors, the China News Service said.

China's leaders believe faster economic development will reduce ethnic tensions in Xinjiang, and its efforts resemble those already under way in also tense Tibet. Xinjiang is China's Central Asian frontier, bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and other countries, and was long a gateway, the region crossed by the Silk Road caravan routes that sent Chinese silk to the Middle East and Europe.

Bekri said further expanding trade and economic links was key to Xinjiang's long-term stability, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

He urged the region to participate more in international cooperation and competition in economic and technological areas, it reported.

Xinjiang remains tense after deadly clashes erupted between predominantly Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese migrants in 2009. Uighurs attacked Hans, overturning buses and torching shops in the regional capital of Urumqi in a riot the government says killed 197 people.

In the aftermath, hundreds were arrested and about two dozen sentenced to death. Many other Uighurs remain unaccounted for and are believed to be in custody.

Uighur activists say the riots, which were followed by retaliatory attacks by Han people, were the result of decades of pent-up frustration with Chinese rule.

China's leaders say all ethnic groups are treated equally and point to the billions of dollars in investment that has modernized the strategically vital region with significant oil and gas deposits. Many Uighurs say they suffer discrimination in jobs and cannot get loans and passports, while many Hans see the Uighurs as a privileged minority with government jobs and university places reserved for them in Xinjiang.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, said official pressure on Uighurs continues to intensify and accused the government of using Bekri's remarks in the state media to "distort the worsening situation."

"The monitoring and investigating of Uighurs is strengthening. Racial discrimination is further increasing," he said, warning that "China's systematic policy of repression is fueling the emergence of new local unrest." - AP

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The Star Online: Sports

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Only one goalkeeper in hockey team’s Euro tour

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 06:24 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Goalkeeper Mohamed Hazrul Faiz Ahmad Sobri is the only player who is assured of playing in all the matches during the European Tour by the Project 2013 hockey squad – because he is the only goalkeeper selected for the trip.

The squad leaves for Germany tonight and they have nine matches lined up during the tour. They will play three matches against the German juniors followed by two against the Dutch juniors. And then four matches against their British counterparts before returning home.

Project 2013 coach K. Dharmaraj said yesterday that they picked only one goalkeeper as they wanted to give Hazrul as many games as possible.

"We had two other keepers for our tours to Australia and New Zealand earlier this year and also for the recent four-nation meet in Moscow. And they have not impressed us so we had to go back to Hazrul as he has proven himself in the recent Under-18 Asia Cup tournament in Singapore," said Dharmaraj.

The two goalkeepers left behind are Mohamed Hafizuddin and Shahrul Azaddin.

Besides Hazrul the other two Under-18 players making the debut for the project team are Mohamed Haziq Shamsul and Mohamed Asrul Hasbullah.

"These two players from the Under-18 squad were impressive in the Singapore meet and the coaches felt we should give them the chance to play with the project team.

"We have a big squad and we will trim the team when we get back depending on the performance of the new players," he added.

The Project squad are being prepared for the 2013 Junior World Cup and their immediate target is the Junior Asia Cup next year which also doubles as the world cup qualifiers.

Dharmaraj said that they are assured of quality matches during the tour and more importantly they have a chance to gauge their standard against the top European sides.

"We have arranged matches against the respective junior sides of the respective countries. It will allow us to see how we stack up against them. Our focus is to have a strong team ready for the qualifiers next year. We also have four other players who are in the senior team. They will rejoin us when they can and we hopefully will get them for some matches together with the current batch of players," he added.

The four with the national team are Faisal Saari, Firhan Azhaari, Asri Hassan and Faiz Helmy. Faisal just returned from playing in the Australian national league while the other three are with the senior team in Europe.

Project team for Europe

Players: Mohamad Hazrul Faiz Ahmad Sobri, Shazrul Imran Nazli, Mohamed Sabri Mohamed, Mohamed Noor Faeez Ibrahim, Mohamed Aslam Mohamed Hanafiah, Arief Iskandar Khamdan, Mohd Fitri Saari, Mohamed Rashid Baharom, Mohamed Taufik Abd Hamid, Mohamed Azrul Hasbullah, Amir Farid Ahmad Fuzi, Mohamad Syamim Mohd Yusof, Mohamad Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin, Mohd Zulhairi Hashim, Mohamed Ramadan Rosli, Mohamed Haziq Samsul, Nor Hizzat Sumantri, Mohamed Fariq Saadon, Dedy Aryadi Jumaidi.

Coaches: K. Dharmaraj, K. Gobinathan, Nor Azlan Bakar.

Manager: Mirnawan Nawawi.

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Life goes on for Asyraf after wildcard snub for the Malaysian Open

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 06:23 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: National squash player Mohd Asyraf Azan is slightly disappointed at not being handed the wildcard for the upcoming CIMB Malaysian Open from July 18-23 but he is not about to brood and fret over it.

The 23-year-old Asyraf is the national number four player at No. 67 in the world rankings behind Mohd Azlan Iskandar (No.10), Ong Beng Hee (No. 29) and Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (No. 45).

He has done well to reach the final of one competition this year, the Fajr Tournament earlier in February before losing to Pakistan's Danish Atlas Khan.

And last month he made it to the quarter-finals of the Jena International at Kuwait before losing in the first round of the Pro Reunion Open to world No. 8 Theirry Lincou of France.

However, the Squash Racquets Association Malaysia (SRAM), decided to hand the wildcard to Kamran Khan (No. 78), whom they felt had been more consistent of late and was more disciplined in training, leaving Asyraf to play in the qualifiers in order to earn a place in the main draw.

"The decision not to give me the wildcard is certainly a little puzzling and it leaves question marks over the decision making process," said Asyraf.

"However, I am not going to let it bother me too much. I will continue to work hard as I am confident of qualifying for the main draw."

"There are a lot of top players coming and my target will be to make it at least to the quarter-finals," said Asyraf.

The Malaysian Open will feature a strong cast of international players such as world No. 6 Gregory Gaultier, who is the top seed, as well as Egyptians Mohamed El Shorbagy (No. 9 and second seed), Hisham Ashour and Tarek Momen.

National number one Azlan is the third seed and will face Kamran in the first round.

Meanwhile Asyraf plans to use the National Championships, which begins tomorrow at the National Squash Centre, as a warm-up tournament for the Malaysian Open.

"My main priority is to get into the main draw for the Malaysian Open and thus I'm happy just to get onto the court and play."

"Of course, it will be an extra bonus for me if I win," added Asyraf, who plans on breaking into the world top-40 ranking by the end of the year.

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James: Daren needs to work more closely with Chong Wei to improve

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 06:23 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Singles shuttler Liew Daren is back in the good books of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) following his fighting displays at the back-to-back Opens in Singapore and Indonesia.

And BAM's high performance director Datuk James Selvaraj wants Daren to rub shoulders more rigorously with world number one Lee Chong Wei to pick up more good traits from the latter for further self-improvement.

In fact, Daren is now working closely with Chong Wei to provide quality sparring ahead of the World Championships, which will be held in London from Aug 8-14. Daren will also follow Chong Wei for the centralised training at the Bath University from July 27-Aug 4.

James said that he had once given up hope on Daren after the latter's uninspiring performances at this year's Malaysia Open. But Daren has regained his confidence after pushing former world champion Taufik Hidayat to the brink, before losing to him in both the opening rounds of the Singapore and Indonesia Opens.

"He has improved of late. He pushes himself during training sessions and also did well to make Taufik sweat before losing. He needs to sharpen some of his strokes. And I have asked coach (Teh) Seu Bock to get him close with Chong Wei so that he can emulate our country's top shuttler to become a better player.

Daren is one of the three second stringers left in the elite team following the retirement of Tan Chung Seang. The other two are Chan Kwong Beng and Chong Wei Feng.

Daren will take part in the Kedah Open from July 13-17 and a good showing will prove that his performances at the Singapore and Indonesia Open were not flukes.

He is seeded fourth and players in his half are World Championships-bound Wong Choong Hann, Kwong Beng and Chun Seang. The top seed and hot favourite is Chong Wei.

Besides the assessment on Daren, James also gave his analysis on the contrasting performances of Chong Wei and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong in his report, which was submitted to the BAM's coaching and training committee on Saturday.

Chong Wei nailed the Indonesia Open title but Kien Keat-Boon Heong crashed out in the quarter-finals and the defeat had put a damper in the duo's preparation for the World Championships.

"Chong Wei is playing exceptional badminton now but we do not see the same urgency, as far as winning is concerned, among the elite players in the men's doubles department. I have suggested that we put a time frame for them to buck up or else, we have to move on with others," he said.

"Both Koo and Tan will undergo conditioning training for the next six weeks leading to the world championships. Focus will be on skill work and also their physical fitness and we want to do our best to motivate them ahead of the world meet," he said.

Apart from giving his input on the elite players progress at the recent Indonesia Open, James also shared his findings after having spoken to a few top figures from other badminton nations – especially Indonesia, India and Thailand.

In fact, he visited Indonesia's national training centre in Cipayung to learnt on how Indonesia conduct their training programme for their back-up and elite shuttlers. He came out impressed with the team unity and camaraderie.

He said that it was important for Malaysia to have a well equipped training centre and he hopes that the BAM would get moving on their plans to set up a new national training centre off the Kesas Highway in Awan Besar.

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PM: Govt and Indian community must work together to build trust

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 04:58 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government and the Indian community must work together to build trust in order to deliver a brighter future for the Indian community, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Monday.

He said one of the three areas they could work collectively together included documenting the history of Indians in Malaysia.

"These include Indians who had sacrificed much for nation building, Indians who, despite all the odds, had made real advances and Indians who propagated their heritage and made it flourish," he said.

Najib also said that another collective effort could be expanding the appreciation for Tamil and other Indian languages as well as bringing together the best and the brightest of the community to work with him to chart a bright future for Malaysian Indian community.

Among the transformational initiatives that the Government had embarked on was executing policy and delivering resources specifically towards improving the lives of the Malaysian Indian community, he said during the launch of the Temple of Fine Arts new RM20mil building on Monday.

The Government was also actively engaging the community at various levels and through multiple unconventional channels, he said.

"Whether via federal ministries, agencies, special task forces or Indian NGOs, we are entirely committed to increasing the pace of delivery, as we know there is much left to do," he said.

Najib said Malaysians needed to be clear that the things they did today be gear towards addressing legacy issues and overcoming contemporary challenges.

"When we talk about the future, we must build a vision of it that centres on a sense of hope, or faith in better times to come. In other words, what we need is nambikai (trust)," he said.

In a press conference, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the Government had given the Temple of Fine Arts RM3mil for the new building while RM7mil was raised among the community and another RM10mil raised from a bank loan.

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23 PSM members charged for having rally leaflets

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 04:27 AM PDT

Published: Monday July 4, 2011 MYT 7:27:00 PM

GEORGE TOWN: A total of 23 Parti Sosialis Malaysia members were charged at a Sessions Court in Butterworth on Monday under the Societies Act 1966 for possessing 600 leaflets on the proposed illegal Bersih 2.0 July 9 rally.

They were also charged under the Internal Security Act 1960 for carrying subversive documents.

All of them were released on a total of RM8,000 bail each.

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Cops question Ibrahim, Ambiga and Samad about July 9 rallies

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Health Minister: Total of 63 hospitals now open to housemen

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 02:51 AM PDT

KAJANG: More hospitals are being made available to universities so that nearly 10,000 medical students can be trained compared to 6,500 housemen now, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The ministry has added 22 district government hospitals, bringing the total number of hospitals hosting housemen to 63, he said.

"The chosen hospitals will be able to give better service with the addition of more staff and, in return, provide new facilities to train medical students.

"Housemen need to practise their specialties at district level as there is a lack of specialists in district hospitals," he said after witnessing the signing of three Memoranda of Agreement between the ministry and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar), here, Monday.

The agreements signed would allow UTAR students studying nursing, physiotherapy, biomedical science, biochemistry and microbiology to be placed at one of 13 hospitals or eight health clinics in the country.

Meanwhile, Liow said the Traditional and Complementary Medicine (TCM) bill would not be postponed as all the relevant parties, including Traditional Chinese Medicine associations and practitioners, had been consulted on the Act.

Once the bill is passed, the industry would be registered under a council and regulated the same way doctors are monitored by the medical board.

"Treatment will better regulated and practitioners can be held liable if they do not give proper treatment to their patients," said Liow, adding that the act would also cut down on fly-by-night TCM practitioners.

Ayurvedic and Traditional Malay medicine practitioners would also be regulated under the new act.

Liow said the objective was not only to regulate and enforce the industry, but to allow the ministry to officially fund research for evidence-based TCM.

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Malaysian flag etiquette - do’s and don’ts

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 05:27 AM PDT

> The National flag should never be flown above another country's flag on the same staff as this would suggest superiority, or conversely, inferiority of one flag, or nation, over another.

> The Malaysian flag should never be allowed to drag along the ground.

> A tattered or faded flag of Malaysian should be removed and replaced with a new flag.

> Due care and consideration must be taken to ensure that the Malaysian flag is always flown the correct way up.

> A flag of Malaysia, when in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning in private with all due care and respect.

> Half Staff or Half Mast — the Malaysian flag is hoisted to half of the potential height of the flag pole to denote grief and mourning.

> Performed by first raising the Malaysian flag to the top, then lowering the Malaysian flag halfway.

> Distress — denoted by flying the Malaysian flag upside-down.

> Manner of hoisting — The Malaysian flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

> No disrespect should be shown to the Malaysian flag.

> The Malaysian flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit the flag to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

> The Malaysian flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing on the flag of any nature.

> The Malaysian flag should be hoisted first and lowered last.

> International flag relating to Malaysian flag usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

Related Stories:
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Nong Chik: Faded and torn flags need to be replaced
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Metro Watch

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 05:23 AM PDT


Maju Expressway will implement upgrading work from now to July 24 from 10am to 4pm. The locations are: north-bound – KM1, KM2, KM8 and KM10 while on the south-bound – KM 1 (ramp near Kampung Pandan roundabout), KM11 and KM24. Highway users are advised to comply with the instructions provided.


Take the first step towards better health by participating in the Jacob's 'Walk of Life' at Taman Botani Negara, Shah Alam on July 17. Participants should arrive between 6am and 7.30am. The walk will start at 8.30am. Come join 10,000 Malaysians as they jointly make a pledge to health at the 6km walk. There will be loads of activities including BMI checks and goodie bags for registered participants. Registration closes on July 8. Sign up for the walk or get more information at


The Manipal Alumni Association of Malaysia (MAAM) will be having its 25th Anniversary Convention from July 14 to 17 at Holiday Villa Subang. Manipal Medical College has produced close to 5,000 Malaysian graduates since 1954. It now as multiple faculties including medical, dental, engineering, pharmaceutical and other allied health courses. The MAAM functions as a liaison body to keep graduates in touch. For details, call 03-22827355 or 03-22011555 or log on to


There will be a talk by the 12th Zurmang Gharwang Riponche, the supreme holder of the Zurmang Whispering Lineage titled "Happiness Lies within You" on July 10 from 10am to 4 pm. The talk will be held at the multipurpose hall in Kolej Bandar Utama, Persiaran Bukit Utama, Petaling Jaya. For details, call Helen (012-2182351) or Bin Eng (012-2310656).


In conjunction with KL Festival, the Japan Foundation of Kuala Lumpur is inviting minyo (Japanese folk song) and taiko drummer Shigeri Kitsu for a series of traditional music performances in Kuala Lumpur. The performances will be held at the Mini Auditorium, Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTic), Jalan Ampang at 8.30pm on July 10 and 11. Admission is free but entrance passes are required. For details, call 03-22846228.


The Rainforest World Music Festival takes place from July 8 to 10 at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching, Sarawak. A sneak preview of the event will be held at the Taylor's University Lakeside Campus today and tomorrow. For details, call 03-2080 8305 (Angel Ng).


University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) is organising a Health Awareness Campaign on Hepatitis, in conjunction with World Hepatitis Day on July 10, from 7am to 10am at Titiwangsa Park, KL. Health exhibition, counselling on immunisation and treatment for Hepatitis disease will be done. Participation is free.

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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Eighth edition of Johor Baru Arts Festival have lots to offer

Posted: 03 Jul 2011 06:17 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: The eighth Johor Baru Arts Festival promises an exciting line up of events including musical performances, theatre dramas, visual arts and film screenings.

There will also be many activities targeted for youths including skateboard races, heritage trail, kite making, traditional dances and modified cars display.

For the first time, international dance troupes from India and Sri Lanka would also be performing including a crossover string ensemble from Singapore.

"The annual arts festival is a good platform to inject life to Johor Baru and make it a truly international city," said Johor Baru Arts Festival patron and advisor Datuk Shahrir Samad.

He added that there would also be a tribute to the victims of the Japanese tsunami which struck the country on March 11.

"The tribute will be organised in collaboration with Johor Baru Arts School and the Japan Club of Johor, and will feature a Japanese music group playing the Taiko, a traditional Japanese drum."

Shahrir, who is also Johor Baru MP, said that the festival has grown over the years, and was now able to feature not only international acts but also high-quality local productions.

"We are able to tap into Johor's rich history and heritage to use as material when developing the Malay musical drama Bumi Berlantai Permata," he said.

Johor Society for the Performing Arts' (JSPA) founding president Yap Siong Cheng said the festival offered opportunities and provided a platform for local performers and budding artistes to showcase their talents.

He added that the event was the longest-running arts festival in Malaysia that featured various elements of performing arts, and hoped that the public would actively support and participate in the festival.

The Johor Baru Arts Festival, organised by the JSPA will be held from July 1 to July 24 at the Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim on Bukit Timbalan.

For details, call 019-713 9900 or 019-716 9900 (Suzie Yap) or go to the website at

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Sabahans welcome PM and wife at 1Malaysian dinner

Posted: 03 Jul 2011 06:14 PM PDT

KOTA KINABALU: Sabahans from all walks of life gathered at Padang Merdeka to dine with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor during their visit here.

Accompanied by Chief Min-ister Datuk Musa Aman and wife Datin Seri Faridah Tussin, the premier and his wife were greeted with a colourful welcome of lion dance and cultural dance performances as they arrived for the 1Malaysia dinner.

The couple shook hands with the people who lined up eagerly awaiting them.

An evening shower earlier did not dampen the spirit of the rakyat who turned out to meet their leaders.

"I was informed by Datuk Musa and Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai that 10,000 people attended this function, making it probably the biggest dinner ever held in thestate capital," said a delighted Najib.

Before the welcoming speech by Musa and address by the Prime Minister, a host of performances werelined up including a 24-season drum show by SJK(C) Chung Hwa pupils, Kian Kok Middle School ensemble and performances from local artistes.

One presentation Najib seemed to enjoy was a performance by local artiste Jimmy Palikat who sang Tanak Kampung (villager's son) rendered in the ethnic Kadazandusun language.

While those who came were impressed with the night's programme, the highlight of the event was a meal they shared with the Prime Minister.

Shopkeeper Lee Chon Hong said that people rarely get to have dinner with dignitaries, let alone a person of Najib's stature.

"I'm just happy to be here although I didn't get to talk to him," he said.

Curry powder maker Puspa Ramasamy said he was thrilled to people from all walks of life turning up for the dinner.

"I hope to meet the Prime Minister in person, but because there are so many people here, I'm just glad I came," she said.

Another attendee Ahmad Karim said the trip from his home in Putatan was a worthwhile as he managed to shake hands with the premier.

State dignitaries who present include deputy chief ministers Tan Sri Pairin Kitingan and Datuk Yahya Hussin, State Assembly Speaker Datuk Salleh Tun Said and Sabah's Cabinet ministers.

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Varsity to produce new organic fertilizer for farmers

Posted: 03 Jul 2011 06:13 PM PDT

SETIU: Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) has introduced a course to produce compost fertilizers to farmers in the state to replace the existing chemical fertilizers.

State Agriculture and Agro-based Industry chairman Asha'ari Idris said composting is the best alternative to help farmers in Terengganu to reduce cost.

He said compost fertilizer, made by using waste matter, could be used to nurture crops and was suitable for all types of crops.

"Farmers can produce their own compost fertilizer at low cost. Among the ingredients that can be used are coconut husk fibre, roasted husk, sand, sawdust and charcoal," he said.

Asha'ari said the Terengganu government was trying to find the best methods to help farmers and the programme held by the UMT was most appropriate for the need of the state.

Compost soil or compost fertilizer is one of the natural or organic fertilizers made through the decomposition process to produce essential nutrients required by the plants. ­— BERNAMA

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