Khamis, 7 Julai 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Happy all the way

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 03:23 AM PDT

Astro Hua Hee Dai entertains with a plethora of local Hokkien entertainment.

ENTERING its fourth year, the nation's first and only Hokkien TV channel, Astro Hua Hee Dai (Ch 333), is going from strength to strength.

From spreading the joy of karaoke singing (Hua Hee Karaoke), introducing traditional Hokkien food recipes (Hua Hee Makan) to connecting the suburban Hokkien-speaking community (Hua Hee Together) and tracing one's ancestry (Hua Hee Roots), the channel has lots to offer.

In a campaign called Hua Hee Nation, a plethora of Hokkien entertainment shows will grace your TV screen for the remaining half of the year.

Recently, the station rolled out its first Hokkien sitcom Hua Hee Everyday, featuring in-house personalities like Hua Hee Together hosts Freddie Ng and Allysa Law, singer-actress Vicky Tan, as well as Astro Classic Golden Melody Singing Competition (ACGM) alumni Ooi Sooi Hak, Chew Swee Lee and Choo Ah Tan.

Chiu Keng Guan, the bankable director behind two bestselling local flicks, Great Day and Woohoo!, serves as executive producer.

"The idea of making a sitcom in Hokkien had long been brewing. We are all Hokkiens and think that it'd be interesting to make a sitcom of our own after watching so many imported shows. The time is ripe for this," explained Chiu at a press conference in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, recently.

The colourful sitcom centres on a kind-hearted taukeh, Tan Kim Chui, and the everyday life events surrounding his family, his grocery store and the neighbourhood.

Ng, arguably the most recognisable face in the local Hokkien entertainment scene, plays Kim Chui, who happens to share the same name as his character in Woohoo!, last year's Lunar New Year hit movie.

"The producer really loves the name," Ng quipped, explaining that chui means water in Hokkien, which symbolises wealth in Chinese culture.

The popular host added: "Chiu rarely calls me, but when he does, that means good things are on the way."

True enough, following that phone call, he scored that meaty role – as a bespectacled, red clogs-shod everyman, juggling his business, family (comprising a domineering wife, three adorable sons, his forgetful mother and fashionable mother-in-law) and his relationships with the neighbours.

"The character is very relatable and it is fun playing him. Still, it's quite a challenge to strike a balance between being funny and being over-the-top. Luckily, they picked the right cast," he said with a laugh.

Tan, according to other the cast members, is playing herself here as Kim Chui's loud, penny-pinching wife Chin Bee Hong.

"It's my first attempt at acting and I'm glad that I have been given such a great opportunity to discover the real me (laughs)! My character might look very fierce, but she's just being very straightforward when it comes to expressing her feelings towards her loved ones," she said.

The shooting was not short of fun and laughter, according to the cast.

"On the second or third day of shooting, we just tossed aside the scripts and went for impromptu performances. The outcome was very real as we incorporated what we've experienced and heard before into the scenes," said Tan.

It helps that most of the cast are ka ki lang ("one of us" in Hokkien). Ng said: "Most of us are Hokkien, so it's easy to communicate. The good chemistry between us just translates to humour on screen. We try our best to make every scene funny and portray the Hokkien culture, along with positive messages."

One of the few non-Hokkien cast members is Chew, who speaks Cantonese. However, the winner of ACGM 2009 is far from being left out on the set.

"Though I don't speak the dialect, strangely, I understood every word they said. So they had been careful not to badmouth me," she joked, adding that she is honoured to play Ng's childhood sweetheart in the sitcom.

So far 12 episodes have been shot, but that would not be all you see of Kim Chui & Co. The channel, known for its close connection with its target audience, hopes to get more inspiration from viewers who are willing to share their stories.

Apart from a brand new sitcom, a string of new shows featuring the channel's best talents are in the pipeline. Among them is Hua Hee Pasar Malam, which will see familiar faces from Astro such as Phoebe Yap, Jentzen Lim, Eng Yee Men, Law and Ng hitting six locations in Johor to visit the local night markets and set up their own stalls there. Besides local personalities, two artistes from Taiwan, the land of Min Nan dramas, will join in the fun.

The month-long event will start off in Kluang on July 18, followed by Skudai (July 24), Batu Pahat (Aug 2), Johor Jaya (Aug 3), Kulai (Aug 8) and Muar (Aug 13) in Johor.

Astro Hua Hee Dai senior channel manager Terry Lian Kok Leong gave an insight into the show's inception: "Whatever we do, we aim to connect with our audiences. Hua Hee Pasar Malam is a platform where we try to interact more with our viewers. It's an expansion of what we are already doing.

"Being Chinese, pasar malam is part of our culture and something we grow up with. We chose Johor, as it is primarily a Hokkien-speaking state. It's also a rather unexplored market for us. So we are bringing it to the ground and letting them experience what we have to offer, giving away food and having fun with the locals.

"It'll be a starting point. Eventually, we will go to other places and even Sabah and Sarawak."

Also in the works is an anniversary drama series scheduled for November. The 30-episode drama will look at the lives of the first batch of Hokkiens who came to Malaysia from China back in the 1930s as they braved hardships and cultural differences to start their families here.

"It'll be very much in line with our station's concept. It'll be all about family ties, with the story spanning a few decades and showcasing the different cultures and values," said Lian.

"We will try to rope in every artiste. After all, we view this as another platform for our artistes to get exposure and try out different things," said Lian, adding that the series will begin shooting next month.

Hua Hee Karaoke will return to make waves across the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.

Next month, Hua Hee Album, featuring in-house hosts and the top three winners of last year's Hua Hee Karaoke, will be released. Also, the 10 winners of the singing competition will vie for international recognition as they compete against overseas contestants at the World Min Nan Idol Singing competition to be held in December.

With so many things on the cards, the local production budget of the channel has doubled compared to last year, revealed Lian.

"When we started the channel, we wanted it to belong to the Hokkien community. We are trying to create a family here, not just coming up with a channel.

"I'm a Hokkien and my parents and relatives serve as my references when we think of rolling out something new. Their opinions are usually sought before I make any decisions," he said.

Hua Hee Everyday is showing on Astro Hua Hee Dai (Ch 333) on Sundays at 9.30pm. For more info, visit or the channel's Facebook page (

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Maggie Q talks about ...

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 03:09 AM PDT

The hardest part filming Nikita

"I have to speak nine languages in the show this season. Have you ever spoken Russian? It's so hard you just want to kill yourself! I didn't realise how stressed I was about (learning languages). My Russian teacher has become a really good friend because I speak so much Russian on the show now."

Her cast members

I've done movies where I've not liked the people on it and it's tough because it drains your energy. But with the cast on Nikita, I've been really lucky because they all get it – they know what they want and work really hard."

Not having a workout regimen

"The reality is that the show is so all-consuming that I can't have a regimen. I don't have the time. I mean, if I can sleep nine hours a day, then I win."

The original Nikita TV show starring Peta Wilson

"I never saw that show. I know that from the beginning, rightfully so, there were people who were sceptical of the new Nikita because of the remake burn out (on television). I'm sure there are still people out there who are diehard fans of the original show but across the board, people have been nice about the new Nikita."

Jackie Chan, her mentor

"We are still in touch but I haven't seen him in a couple of years. He's restructuring – he's now based out of China instead of Hong Kong. He's really busy and I've been stuck in Toronto, so I haven't really seen anyone."

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Sidekick with oomph!

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 06:58 PM PDT

LYNDSY Fonseca learnt about the reality of the TV industry the hard way. You see, the 24-year-old actress, who is starring opposite Maggie Q in Nikita, started her acting career at the age of 13 in the daytime soap The Young And The Restless. After her three-year contract ended, Fonseca decided to try for the big league (read: prime time television).

It came as a shock to her that TV execs were not interested even though she came with experience. "It was as though my years on (daytime) TV didn't matter. I had to literally start from scratch," Fonseca explained.

Slowly and steadily, however, Fonseca rebuilt her career. Eagle-eyed TV audience would have spotted the actress in How I Met Your Mother in which she has a recurring role as Ted Moseby's future daughter.

But it wasn't until 2007 that her career went into full swing. Fonseca joined the women of Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives. In the hit TV series, she played the role of Dylan Mayfair, daughter to Dana Delany's Katherine Mayfair. Her one-season stint opened doors for her in Hollywood.

"That show definitely helped catapult me to a different level," Fonseca offered. "Doing that for a year, I feel like people kind of took me more seriously. I'm very appreciative of that."

The role of Dylan led to more high-profile projects, including the hit movie Kick-Ass and Nikita.

For Fonseca, Nikita is more than just a job. She says that she finally feels a sense of belonging.

"Desperate Housewives was always very strange for me because it was never my show, you know, I came in on the fourth season, it was obviously a very tight family. So even though I was a regular for a season, I never really felt like I got the swing of things. But Nikita is very much my family. I was able to create it from the very beginning."

In the high-octane action drama Nikita, Fonseca plays Alex who has been recruited by the shady government organisation Division. Alex is then trained to be an assassin. Unbeknownst to Division, Alex is a mole who Nikita (Maggie Q) is using in her effort to destroy the organisation.

Playing the role of Alex is entirely new to Fonseca as the part is physically demanding, which is why the actress is grateful for Q's presence and guidance.

"It's very calming because I know that I'll be taken care of," she said of Q's involvement in most action scenes. "When we went out to do the first season, Maggie invited me to train with her because she wanted me to have an idea of what I was getting myself into. I've been a dancer my whole life so I am flexible and in tune with my body. I feel like I have a bit of a head start but I needed to learn a lot as far as how to sell it to the camera."

So, Fonseca immersed herself in preparing for the crucial action scenes. As for the dialogue, it was easy for the actress because of her background in daytime soap. "In The Young And The Restless, I had to memorise a 60-page script for a day's worth of shoot. So, it is a walk in the park memorising the script on Nikita; which is good because I can concentrate on learning the choreography for the action scenes," she said.

Like Q, Fonseca is fearless. She insists on doing most of her own stunts ... much to the director's dismay. "I'm probably really annoying because I show up on set, see a cool stunt and tell the director, 'You know I'm going to do that right?'. I think they would rather that we didn't do everything but Maggie and I prefer to do it ourselves because it looks better."

While the show is mostly dark and gloomy (it is a show where someone gets killed every week), the environment on set is quite the opposite. Fonseca let in that after finishing an intense scene with Melinda Clarke (who plays the Division's master manipulator Amanda), both she and Clarke usually break into a song-and-dance routine. "Once they shout 'Cut!', we're likely be dancing together," she laughed describing a typical day on set. "Melinda's pretty theatrical. She's very unaffected by being an actress, she's just full of life."

A TV junkie herself, Fonseca loves watching Modern Family, Castle, Breaking Bad and Glee. Her last interest grates on Q.

"Maggie and I get into discussions about Glee. She's like, 'I just don't get it. People just start breaking out into song walking down the hall?', I'm like, 'It's fine!'"

It is this kind of repartee between female cast members that Fonseca enjoys. She also feels Nikita helps promote healthy relationships between female characters. Too often, she finds, TV shows portraying female characters that are at odds with one another.

"I think it is rare that you have two strong women on a show who have a healthy friendship, who love each other," Fonseca said of the relationship between her character Alex and Nikita. "It's kind of nice to see female characters who are not being bitchy or catty to one another." – Gordon Kho

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

UK's Miliband wants media watchdog scrapped

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 07:49 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's media watchdog is "toothless" and should be scrapped, opposition leader Ed Miliband is expected to say on Friday after a phone-hacking scandal sent shockwaves across the country and led to the closure of a top-selling tabloid.

In extracts of a speech seen by Reuters, drawn up before Thursday's announcement that News International would close the News of the World, the Labour party leader calls for a judge-led inquiry into the scandal rocking Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Britain's opposition leader Ed Miliband speaks during a news conference in London June 7, 2011. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)

He also criticises Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's close relations with News International executives.

"The Press Complaints Commission has totally failed," Miliband will say. "It has been exposed as a toothless poodle. It is time to put it out of its misery. We need a new watchdog."

Britain's biggest-selling Sunday newspaper will publish for the last time this weekend.

Allegations that News of the World journalists hacked the voicemail of thousands of people, from child murder victims to the families of Britain's war dead, have outraged readers and posed a growing threat to Murdoch's hopes of buying out broadcaster BSkyB.

The scandal has also touched Cameron, who picked as his communications director a former News of the World editor who resigned over the hacking affair.

Miliband will say leaders must take responsibility for change: "I know this is difficult for the prime minister because of his personal relationships and because these are very powerful forces."

Cameron, who said he was "revolted" by allegations that News of the World investigators eavesdropped on the voicemail of victims of crime, said he would order an inquiry but resisted calls to put an end to attempts by Murdoch to buy out news and entertainment broadcaster BSkyB.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Shrapnel, high security in Turkmen town after blasts

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 07:19 PM PDT

ABADAN, Turkmenistan (Reuters) - Army and police units patrolled Abadan on Friday after several explosions were heard in the town close to the Turkmen capital.

Residents of Ashgabat, capital of the gas-rich, secretive Central Asian state, reported hearing several loud blasts coming from nearby Abadan at about 4 pm (1100 GMT) on Thursday and said electricity supplies were intermittent.

The authorities said fireworks had detonated at a storage facility in Abadan due to hot weather. It said there were no casualties or serious destruction.

The website of Turkmenistan's exiled opposition,, said army ammunition depots were on fire about 20 km (12 miles) outside Ashgabat.

A Reuters correspondent said roads in Abadan, which has a power station serving the capital, were strewn with metal shards and the air was thick with acrid smoke. The streets looked deserted. Despite a heavy police and army presence, the town was not cordoned off and cars could enter freely, although police hurried onlookers away.

The opposition website said: "There is large-scale destruction and victims" as a result of the blasts. The report was accompanied by a picture of a huge plume of smoke rising over the area.

The Turkmen government said in a statement: "The local population is being given all necessary kinds of medical, social and other types of assistance," adding a government meeting on the accident had been chaired by the country's strongman President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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European suicide rates pushed higher by financial crisis

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 06:17 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Suicides rates rose sharply in Europe in 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes, with the worst hit countries like Greece and Ireland seeing the most dramatic increases, researchers said on Friday.

But rates of road deaths in the region fell during the same period, possibly because higher numbers of jobless people led to lower car use, according to an initial analysis of data from 10 European Union (EU) countries.

"Even though we're starting to see signs of a financial recovery, what we're now also seeing is a human crisis. There's likely to be a long tail of human suffering following the downturn," said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain's Cambridge University, who worked on the analysis.

Stuckler, Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Sanjay Basu of the University of California San Francisco published their initial analysis in the Lancet journal and said the data "reveal the rapidity of the health consequences of financial crises."

Stuckler said in a telephone interview the researchers did not yet have enough data to make a worthwhile estimate of how many deaths in total could be linked to the financial crisis, but that is something they plan to do in future work.

"In particular, we want to understand better why some individuals, communities, and entire societies are especially vulnerable, yet some seem more resilient to economic shocks," the researchers wrote.

Stuckler said he feared the social and health costs of the recent global economic downturn would turn out to be high.

"We can already see that the countries facing the most severe financial reversals of fortune, such as Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicides," he said.

"And suicides are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of mental health problems. Suicide itself is a relatively rare event, but wherever you see a rise in suicides there is also a rise in failed suicide attempts and in new cases of depression."

Analysing data available so far, Stuckler and colleagues found that suicide rates were up 17 percent in Greece and 13 percent in Ireland. Unemployment increased by 2.6 percentage points -- a 35 percent relative increase -- between 2007 and 2009 across the EU as a whole, they said.

"The steady downward trend in suicide rates, seen...before 2007, reversed at once," the researchers wrote.

In 2008 the increase in suicide rates in new EU members states studied -- those like Hungary and Lithuania, which joined after 2004 -- was less than 1 percent, but in the older members it increased by almost 7 percent.

And in both, suicides increased further in 2009.

Among the 10 countries studied -- Austria, Britain, Finland, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia and Romania -- only Austria had fewer suicides in 2009 than in 2007, with the rate down 5 percent. In all of the other countries, the increase was at least 5 percent.

In Britain suicide rates rose from a recent low of 6.14 per 100,000 people aged under 65 in 2007, to 6.75 in 2008 -- an increase of 10 percent, and remained similarly high in 2009.

Stuckler said that overall, the higher death rates from suicides appeared to be balanced out by the lower fatalities on the roads, which fell substantially, especially in new EU member countries where they were initially very high.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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Results worldwide

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 05:57 PM PDT


Asian Championships


10,000m: 1. Mahboob Ali Hasan Mahbood (Brn) 28:35.49, 2. Bilsuma Gelassa (Brn) 28:36.30, 3. Akinobu Murasawa (Jpn) 28:40.63.

Discus: 1. Ehshan Hadadi (Irn) 62.27m, 2. Shive Gowda (Ind) 61.58, 3. Wu Jian (Chn) 56.61.


10,000m: 1. Shitaya Eshete Habtegebrel (Brn) 32:47.80, 2. Kareema Jasim Saleh (Brn) 32:50.70, 3. Preeja Sreedharan (Ind) 33:15.55.

Long jump: 1. Mayookha Johny (Ind) 6.56m, 2. Lu Minjia (Chn) 6.52, 3. Saeko Okayama (Jpn) 6.51.

Hammer: 1. Masumi Aya (Jpn) 67.19m, 2. Liu Tingting (Chn) 65.42, 3. Yuka Murofushi (Jpn) 62.50.

Selected: 5. Tan Song Hwa (Mal) 54.44.

Javelin: 1. Liu Chunhua (Chn) 58.05, 2. Wang Ping (Chn) 55.80, 3. Yuka Sato (Jpn) 54.16.


Tour de France

Stage six (226.5km): 1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 5'13:37, 2. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad, 3. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo, 4. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM, 5. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar, 6. Arthur Vichot (Fra) Francaise des Jeux, 7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto, 8. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quick Step, 9. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM, 10. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) Francaise des Jeux all same time.

Leading overall standings: 1. Thor Hushovd 22'50:34, 2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC 0:01 behind, 3. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek 0:04, 4. David Millar (Bri) Garmin-Cervelo 0:08, 5. Andreas Kloeden (Ger) RadioShack 0:10, 6. Bradley Wiggins (Bri) Sky Procycling same time, 7. Geraint Thomas (Bri) Sky Procycling 0:12, 8. Edvald Boasson Hagen, 9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek, 10. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek all same time.


Budapest Grand Prix

Second round: Kateryna Bondarenko (Ukr) bt Olga Savchuk (Ukr) 6-3, 6-2; Irina Begu (Rom) bt Ajla Tomljanovic (Cro) 6-4, 6-4; Klara Zakopalova (Cze) bt Aleksandra Krunic (Srb) 7-5, 7-5; Anabel Medina Garrigues (Spa) bt Lesya Tsurenko (Ukr) 6-2, 7-5; Zuzana Kucov (Svk) bt Alona Bondarenko (Ukr) 6-3, 6-1.

Newport International

Second round: Denis Kudla (US) bt Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) 6-1, 6-4; John Isner (US) bt Arnaud Clement (Fra) 7-6 (8-6), 6-4; Alex Bogomolov (US) bt Ruben Bemelmans (Bel) 2-6, 6-0, 6-1; Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRra bt Wang Yeu-tzuoo (Tai) 7-5, 6-4; Tobias Kamke (Ger) bt Donald Young (US) 7-6 (7-3), 6-4; Olivier Rochus (Bel) bt Nicolas Mahut (Fra) 6-4, 7-6 (7-3); Matthew Ebden (Aus) bt Matthias Bachinger (Ger) 2-6, 6-4, 6-4; Michael Yani (US) bt Tommy Haas (Geer) 5-2 (abandon)

Sweden Open

Second round: Lourdes Dominguez (Spa) bt Arantxa Parra (Spa) 7-5, 6-1; Polona Hercog (Slo) bt Aravane Rezai (Fra) 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4); Maria Jose Martinez (Spa) bt Nuria Llagostera (Spa) 7-5, 6-1; Flavia Pennetta (Ita) bt Angelique Kerber (Ger) 6-2, 6-3; Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Cze) bt Anastasiya Yakimova (Blr) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3; Johanna Larsson (Swe) bt Vera Dushevina (Rus) 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-2; Vesna Manasieva (Rus) bt Sorana Cirstea (Rom) 6-3, 6-3; Sofia Arvidsson (Swe) bt Caroline Wozniacki (Den) 2-6, 1-0 (abandon).

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Zulfadli storms into semi-finals of Asian Junior badminton meet

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 05:53 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Zulfadli Zulkifli is one step away from making his dream come true after storming into the boys' singles semi-finals at the Asian Junior badminton championships in Lucknow, India, yesterday.

The 18-year-old KLRC shuttler, who lost two out of the three matches he played in the mixed team event, powered past China's Xue Song 21-16, 23-21 in the third round.

He then turned on the style to crush local hope Joshi Pratul 21-15, 21-9 in the last eight in just 31 minutes.

Zulfadli's path to the final has also been made easier after defending champion Huang Yuxiang – the same player he lost to in the mixed team final on Tuesday, crashed to a surprising 13-21, 21-19, 17-21 to Japan's Kento Momota in the third round.

Momota went on to beat Hong Kong's Angus Ng 21-10, 19-21, 21-11 to set up a semi-final clash with Zulfadli.

However, it was all over for Asian Juniors debutant Soong Joo Vern, who crashed out in the third round.

"Momota has done Zulfadli a huge favour by taking out Yuxiang ... the cards are certainly in Zulfadli's favour," said BAM junior athletes development coordinator How Kim Tho.

"But he should know better than to underestimate Momota, who is very talented and has been playing well here so far."

There was more joy for Malaysia when reigning world junior doubles champions Nelson Heg-Teo Ee Yi also qualified for the semi-finals.

Nelson-Ee Yi outclassed China's Liu Junhui-Guo Kaiyi 21-13, 21-14 in the third round before packing off Hong Kong's Tam Chun Hei-Chang Tak Ching 21-17, 21-12 in just 21 minutes.

But Tai An Kang- Jani Sant Enos failed to make the grade after they were beaten 11-21, 18-21 by Indonesians Alexander Ronald-Geh Selvanus in the third round.

It was also all over for Malaysia in the girls' singles and mixed doubles, with Sonia Cheah and Nelson-Chow Mei Kuan crashing out in the quarter-finals.

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Youngster Jee Nee receives valuable lesson in squash from Nicol

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 05:52 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: It was a day to cherish for Penang youngster Lim Jee Nee.

The 16-year-old had the opportunity to take on Malaysian squash queen Nicol David in the first round of the National Championships at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Although the Penangite lost 2-11, 7-11, 8-11, it was a valuable lesson which Jee Nee hopes will stand her in good stead in the future.

"I was really excited going up against Nicol. It was my first time playing against her and she really gave me a lesson in running after the ball," said the student of SMK Convent Green Lane, the same school Nicol attended.

"But it was a good experience and I hope to do better in the future."

World No.1 Nicol was full of praise for Jee Nee, who is 12 years her junior.

"It was good to get on court and play against another Penangite after the mid-season break,"said Nicol.

"I knew her when she was really young and now she has grown up and playing some really good squash.

"She managed to put together a few good rallies and that's a really encouraging sign. She just needs to keep up the hard work to become a better player."

Nicol, who is looking to defend her title in the Nationals, faces current top junior player Tan Yan Xin in the quarter-finals.

Yan Xin defeated Nessrine Ariffin 12-10, 11-6, 11-4.

"The Nationals is tougher than it looks because there are (Low) Wee Wern and Delia (Arnold) who will looking to win. I just hope to do well and take it one match at a time as this tournament will serve as a good warm-up for the Malaysian Open," said Nicol.

It was business as usual for the elite players as Wee Wern, Delia and Siti Munirah Jusoh won their matches in convincing fashion.

In the men's event, Asian champion Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan had to work hard before prevailing 11-6, 11-6, 12-10 over Sanjay Singh Chal.

He will face Ivan Yuen, who beat Affeeq Abedeen 11-6, 11-2, 11-7, in the quarter-finals today.

The top two seeds - Mohd Azlan Iskandar and Ong Beng Hee - were given a first round bye.

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The Star Online: Business

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Oil and gasoline prices on the rise again

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 06:31 PM PDT

NEW YORK: A funny thing happened on the way to lower oil and gasoline prices: They went up.

Two weeks after the U.S. and other oil-importing nations took action that knocked down the price of oil to almost $90 a barrel, it's back around $100.

Oil is rising again as investors bet that the economies of many countries, including the U.S., will improve in the second half of the year, and global demand for petroleum will rise.

Benchmark oil for August delivery rose $2.02, or 2.1 percent, to settle at $98.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude gained $4.97, or 4.4 percent, to settle at $118.59 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Higher oil prices mean higher gas prices. The U.S. average pump price rose 1.4 cents on Thursday to $3.583 a gallon (94 cents a liter), according to automobile club AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That's up 86 cents a gallon from a year ago.

Gas prices likely will remain choppy, rising or falling within a 20-cent range for the rest of the summer, according to Oil Price Information Service analyst Tom Kloza. They probably won't push back to near $4 a gallon, where they were in early May, barring floods or hurricanes that could affect refinery operations.

While most experts agree that the world has plenty of oil, there are concerns that supplies could get tight as demand rises. The U.S. and other nations in the International Energy Agency have said they will release 60 million barrels of crude from emergency stocks to cover possible shortfalls caused by the shutdown of Libyan oil production because of ongoing unrest there. Libya supplied about 2 percent of the world's oil, much of it high-grade crude used for refined products like gasoline.

Benchmark oil fell as low as $90.61 a barrel at the end of June following the IEA announcement. It then began a steady climb, as investors shrugged off the IEA move and focused on the prospect of growing demand in the second half of the year, especially in the expanding economies of China, India and Brazil.

There are also more positive signs in the U.S. economy that could point to more jobs and more energy consumption.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in seven weeks. Payroll processor ADP said the private sector added 157,000 jobs last month, which was more than double what economists had forecast.

In addition, U.S. factory orders rose 0.8 percent in May to $445.3 billion, which was almost 32 percent higher than the low point during the recession, reached in March 2009.

In other Nymex trading for August contracts, heating oil rose 13.87 cents to settle at $3.1020 per gallon and gasoline futures added 12.94 cents to settle at $3.1270 per gallon. Natural gas lost 8.4 cents to settle at $4.138 per 1,000 cubic feet. - AP

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WikiLeaks getting credit card funds

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 06:29 PM PDT

LONDON: WikiLeaks has again begun accepting credit card donations, a company affiliated with the secret-spilling site said Thursday.

Andreas Fink, the chief executive of Icelandic payment processor DataCell, told The Associated Press that Visa and MasterCard were again processing payments to WikiLeaks after a seven-month hiatus.

Fink claimed the move as a tacit admission of guilt from the credit card companies, but it may well have been accidental.

Visa Europe spokesman Simon Kleine told AP that processing the payments was "not something that we've sanctioned" and that the company was investigating. An email and phone calls seeking comment from MasterCard were not immediately returned.

Visa and MasterCard pulled the plug on the company, DataCell ehf, in early December, shortly after WikiLeaks began publishing about 250,000 U.S. State Department cables. But Fink said Thursday that card services had been restored - saying that lawyers had made sure of it by making test donations.

"We have seen donations going through," he said, although he added that he wouldn't get a clear idea of how much money was flowing into WikiLeaks' coffers for another couple of days.

Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. were two of a host of financial and Internet services companies which severed their links with WikiLeaks following the publication of the State Department cables. PayPal Inc.,, EveryDNS and others also cut their ties with the site amid intense government criticism of the online activist group - leading WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to accuse them of bowing to pressure from the Pentagon.

Last week, WikiLeaks and DataCell said they were preparing to take the credit card companies to court in Denmark. On its website, WikiLeaks claims that the block placed on WikiLeaks by companies such as MasterCard and Visa have cost it more than 90 percent of its donations, or $15 million. It has offered no explanation as to how those figures were derived.

The company is still raising money through bitcoins, a kind of online currency, and direct bank transfers to accounts in Iceland and Germany. - AP


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Grisly labels not so scary for cigarette sales

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 06:26 PM PDT

RICHMOND, Virginia: The top U.S. tobacco companies' sales aren't expected to go up in smoke despite new grisly warning labels that are set to appear on cigarettes packs next year.

The graphic labels, which were released in June by the Food and Drug Administration and include an image of rotting teeth and gums, will cause a decline of less than one percent in overall U.S. tobacco revenues in 2013, according to a recent analysis by research firm IBISWorld.

An average person in the U.S. smokes fifteen cigarettes a day at a cost of about $1,500 per year, which translates to about $300 million in lost revenue. That's only a fraction of the estimated $43.8 billion in revenue for the tobacco industry in 2013, the firm's calculation show.

The analysis, however, does not take into account the cost of redesigning and printing new cigarette packages, the number of people who won't start smoking because of the warnings, or the smokers who cut down on their habit.

"Gradually, the warnings could impact the smoking population," said IBISWorld cigarette and tobacco industry analyst Mary Gotaas. "But in the near term, it won't have much of an impact."

The nine warning labels are required by federal law to take up half of the pack, both front and back, by the fall of 2012. The labels, which represent the biggest change in cigarette packs in the U.S. in 25 years, also include images of the corpse of a dead smoker, diseased lungs, a smoker wearing an oxygen mask and a man wearing an "I Quit" T-shirt.

The warnings must also appear in advertisements and constitute 20 percent of each ad, and cigarette makers will have to run all nine labels on a rotating basis. The FDA estimates that the labels will cut the number of smokers by 213,000 in 2013, with a smaller additional reduction through 2031.

Aside from the potential to get people to quit smoking - or prevent them from starting - the labels also could have a huge marketing effect for cigarette makers by making their brand names less important, said Deborah Mitchell, executive director of the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin.

Being unable to differentiate cigarette packs, Mitchell said, consumers will care less about what brand they're smoking, and more about how much it will cost them. That's a potential concern for Marlboro, the nation's top-selling cigarette, and its owner Richmond-based Altria Group Inc., parent company of the nation's largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA.

"A great brand like Marlboro, it's like they cast this spell," Mitchell said, referring to the brand's cowboy mythology. "If the spell is broken, for example, with this really negative packaging ... all at once, Marlboro is just another brand of tobacco."

Despite the estimated minimal impact on revenue, in a federal lawsuit, some of the major companies argue that the warnings will relegate their cigarette brand names to the bottom half of the cigarette package, making it difficult or impossible to see. - AP

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Hostage drama: Shot suspect dies in hospital

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 07:57 AM PDT

MUAR: The hammer-wielding man who held 30 children and four teachers hostage at a kindergarten here earlier Thursday, died in hospital at 9.15pm, after being shot by police during rescue operations.

Earlier, police had freed all hostages, after shooting teargas into the Serikids kindergarten compound and entering the building in Taman Sungai Abong Cemerlang here.

State deputy police chief Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman had told reporters that the man was in critical condition after he was hit by a single shot in the head and was sent the nearby Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital.

"All the 30 children, aged between three and five years, and their four teachers are safe," he said, adding that they were sent to the hospital for a check up.

The man is believed to have two records of breaking into kindergartens, namely Warna Sari Kindergarten on Jan 12, 2009 and Senario Kindergarten on March 10 last year, by climbing over the fence, armed with a hammer.

The case is being investigated under Section 307 of the Penal Code for attempted murder and Section 363 of the same code for kidnapping.

It was reported that the man, believed to be mentally unsound, had asked police negotiators for a gun or he would kill the kids.

However, after local psychiatrist Dr Lau Keen Lee spoke to the man from outside of the double-storey bungalow, he appeared to calm down.

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91 barred from entering KL business district on July 9

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 05:50 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The police have obtained a restriction order preventing 91 people, including Bersih organisers, Patriot/Umno Youth and Perkasa from entering the city central business district on Saturday.

Acting city police chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Amar Singh said the police would enforce the order under Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code if any one of the names stated in the order defied the restriction.

Those on the list include Bersih chief Datuk S. Ambiga, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali

"They can be liable and charged under Section 188 of the Penal Code with Disobeying a Lawful Order of the Court which carries a maximum six months imprisonment or a fine or both upon conviction," he said here Thursday.

The 91 on the list are:

Datuk Seri Abd Hadi Awang; Abd Rahim Osman; Datuk Abdul Azeez Rahim; Ahmad Syazwan Muhammad Hasan; Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan; Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim; Arman Azha Abu Hanifa; Azman Shapawi Rani; Badrul Hisham Shaharin; Choo Chon Kai; Chua Tian Cheng; Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad; E. Enalini; Fadiah Nadwa Fikri; Haris Fathillah Sathiasingam Mohd Ibrahim;

Hishamuddin Md Rais; Datuk Ibrahim Ali; Datuk Ab. Rahman Ab. Bakar; Syed Hassan Syed Ali; Irwan Fahmi Ideris; Roslan Kassim; Sharifuddin Abd Hamid; Dr Zubir Harun; Ameir Hassan; Datuk Ahmad Saad; Ahmad Zaini Ismail; Muhammad Zahid Arip; Abdullah Mansor; Norkhaila Jamaludin; Datuk Prof Kamaruddin Kachar;

Kamarulzaman Mohamad; Khairul Anwar Ahmad Zainuddin; Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar; Khalid Abd Samad; Datuk Khalid Yunus; Khoo Teng Swee; Lau Wen San; Lim Kit Siang; Loke Siew Fook; Lokman Noor Adam; M. Sarasvathy; Datuk Mahfuz Omar; Maria Chin Abdullah; Mat Shuhaimi Shafie; Mazlan Aliman;

Datuk Megat Firdouz Tan Sri Megat Junid; Megat Zulkarnain Datuk Omardin; Mohamad Izzuddin Hilmi Mohd Zaini; Mohamad Sabu; Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin; Mohd Azmin Ali; Mohd Firdaus Jaafar; Dr Mohd Hatta Md Ramli; Datuk Seri Mohd Hilmi Ismail; Mohd Lukman Muda; Datuk Mohd Noor Nordin Abdullah; Mohd Shazni Munir Mohd Ithnin; Mohd Shukri Che Ab Razab; Mohd Sibri Ismail; Mohd Syukri Kamaruddin;

Muhammad Hilman Idham; Dr Mujahid Yusof; Nasarudin Hassan; Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat; Nor Azli Musa; Nurul Izham Nurul Anuar; Nurul Izzah Anwar; Ong Boon Keong; Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican; Rizalman Datuk Mokhtar; S. Arutchelvam; Salahuddin Ayub; Satipul Bahari Mamat; Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin; Soh Sook Hwa;

Suhaizan Kaiat; Dr Syed Azman Syed Nawawi; Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh; Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud; Tengku Azman Tengku Zainol Abidin; Teresa Kok Suh Sim; Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz; Ungku Saleh Ungku Jamal; Wan Hassan Mohd Ramli; Wong Chin Huat; Y. Kohila; Yap Swee Seng; Zaid Kamaruddin; Zaira Jaafar; Dr Zubir Harun and Datuk Zulkifli Noordin

The restricted areas for the 91 are:

Jalan Raja Laut, Jalan Dang Wangi, Sogo premises, around Dataran Merdeka, around Istana Negara, Dataran Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Syed Putra, Jalan Istana, Jalan Bukit Petaling, Jalan Bellamy, Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Lembah Perdana, Jalan Chenderasari, around Masjid Negara, around Central Market, around Masjid Jamek, Maju Junction, Masjid Kampung Baru, Jalan Kinabalu, Jalan Kuching, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Sri Amar, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Haji Taib, Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Jalan Raja Bot, Jalan Raja Abdullah, Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Jalan Gereja, Jalan Raja Chulan, Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Loke and Jalan Sultan Mahmud.

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Govt to rethink online services

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 05:33 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: Although the Government has successfully operated online services, it has to rethink whether they are still relevant, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Sidek Hassan said Thursday.

"I recognise that we have implemented many e-Government applications nationwide over the years. (But) just because it is e-something, it doesn't make it relevant for all time," he said when delivering a key note address entitled 'Waking Up With Tomorrow's Mind' at the National ICT Conference 2011 here.

Sidek said the myGovernment portal now offered 1,247 online services.

He also commented on the successes achieved by the Multimedia Supercorridor since its implementation in 1996, including the creation of 111,367 jobs up to 2010.

"But we need to ask ourselves if the companies and services registered thus far will catapult Malaysia to compete in a world of seven billion people," Sidek said.

"Our ring of competition is no longer confined to the 28 million population here," he added. - Bernama

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So long Mr. Potter

Posted: 07 Jul 2011 12:21 AM PDT

LONDON (Reuters): Film farewells don't get much bigger than Harry Potter, and thousands of fans prepared Thursday to say goodbye to their beloved boy wizard at the world premiere of the final movie in the record-breaking series.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is the eighth installment -- and first in 3D -- of a franchise that has generated more public excitement and media hype than any other in living memory.

For Hollywood studio Warner Bros it has been a magic pot of gold, with the seven films released so far grossing US$6.4 billion in ticket sales and billions more from DVDs and merchandise.

For a generation of Potter fans, the movies have extended the wizarding world created by British author J.K. Rowling in her seven-book saga which began in 1997 and concluded in 2007.

More than 400 million copies have been sold around the globe, making Rowling the first author billionaire and providing a huge support base upon which the films built.

``We've grown up in the Harry Potter generation -- I read the first book when I was five so now it's weird that it's coming to an end ... like the end of childhood,'' said Rhys, an 18-year-old who braved the rain in London's Trafalgar Square.

Die-hard fans, some in full regalia from the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, have camped out since Monday to catch a glimpse of the stars as they walk the red carpet at the official world premiere.

The young actors, cast in their roles aged between nine and 11, said they too were struggling to get to grips with the post-Potter world, despite being A-list stars with huge personal fortunes.

``After we finished (filming) a year ago now I have felt a little bit lost without it, really, and not really knowing what to do with myself,'' said 22-year-old Rupert Grint, who plays Potter's main sidekick Ron Weasley.

``It's been such a constant part of my life and to suddenly have that come down to this one film, it is quite sad and I'm really genuinely going to miss it and miss everyone.''

Consistent with the gradual trend towards darker content as the franchise progressed, Deathly Hallows - Part 2 climaxes with an intense battle between good and evil fought at Hogwarts.

Buildings are flattened, wizards and witches die and Harry steels himself for the final showdown with his evil nemesis Lord Voldemort, played by a snake-like Ralph Fiennes who called his character a ``high definition villain.''

Daniel Radcliffe, 21, who has played Harry Potter throughout the last decade, was enthusiastic about the conclusion.

``I think of it as being light years ahead of any of the other films in the series,'' he told a London news conference on Wednesday via videolink from New York where he is appearing in a Broadway play.

``In terms of quality this is the best film we've ever made, so I'm thrilled that we're going out on this positive note.''

Whether critics agree remains to be seen, with most reviews coming out after the premiere.

The Daily Telegraph, however, featured an article by Philip Womack which described Deathly Hallows - Part 2 as ``monumental cinema, awash with gorgeous tones, and carrying an ultimate message that will resonate with every viewer, young or old: there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it.''

The movie opens in some territories on July 13, and in the key British and U.S. markets on July 15. It opens in Malaysia on July 14.

Rowling has said she has no intention of writing another Potter novel, and David Yates, director of the last four Potter movies, told the news conference that he believed the film cycle had closed for good.

Rowling's wizarding world will not disappear altogether, however.

She recently unveiled Pottermore, a website allowing fans to interact with the characters and storylines, and will finally retail the stories as ebooks exclusively on the site.

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Chen Kaige launches show in scenic China city

Posted: 06 Jul 2011 10:51 PM PDT

HONG KONG (AP): "Farewell My Concubine" director Chen Kaige has launched a show based on a Chinese folk tale in Dali, a scenic southwestern Chinese city popular with tourists.

Chen told reporters Wednesday the show that features a bridge, explosives and water effects is a tribute to China's minority Bai people who live in Dali.

The show is inspired by the Bai story "Wang Fu Yun," or "Cloud of the Husband Watcher." The legend tells of a mythical princess who is reincarnated as a cloud after dying of grief over her murdered lover.

The extravaganza will be a regular fixture in Dali.

Chen's debut show has drawn comparisons to fellow director Zhang Yimou's shows at other tourist destinations like West Lake in eastern China and Lijiang, another southwestern city also in Yunnan province.

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American Black Film Festival starts in Miami Beach

Posted: 06 Jul 2011 06:55 PM PDT

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (AP): One of the most prestigious festivals honoring black cinema returned to Miami Beach on Wednesday to promote cultural diversity and recognize the contributions of black directors, writers and actors to the American film industry.

Now in its 15th year, the American Black Film Festival promotes cultural diversity within the film industry by strengthening the black filmmaking community through four days of film screenings, networking, workshops for both actors and directors and panel discussions.

Jeff Friday, the festival's co-founder, said he wanted to change America's tone of African-American characters on television and films.

"I had always been disturbed by images of people with color in films. There was always a level of struggle," he said of black people on the television shows he grew up watching, such as "Good Times" or "The Jeffersons."

"I just didn't see enough diversity."

That was decades ago, and Friday acknowledged the industry was doing a much better job now.

In all, 20 independent films will be premiering during the festival that runs through Saturday, allowing for emerging filmmakers to showcase their work through short-film and documentary competitions. The films were either made or directed by an African-American, or have a focus on black culture.

Opening the festival will be "In the Hive," produced by Robert Townsend and starring Michael Clarke Duncan, Loretta Devine, Vivica A. Fox and Jonathan "Lil J" McDaniel. The film is based on a true story of a woman who started an alternative school for troubled youth in North Carolina.

"It's what's going on right now. At risk youths ... how do you save them?" Townsend said.

"We have a lot of stories to tell. And a lot of times Hollywood hasn't really told our stories. We need a new generation of filmmakers to tell stories that reflect truths and the humanness of the people of color."

In the film "Breathe," a woman's dream of becoming a mother turns into a nightmare as she is stalked by a silent killer during her pregnancy, a true story directed by Jerry Allen Davis and starring Robin Givens.

"The topic doesn't really get addressed in the black community," said actress Elise Neal, who also stars in "A.N.T. Farm," a TV series on the Disney Channel.

"Our race doesn't talk about complications. But having this film in the festival will resonate with women. It's about time we do more films that are topical and discuss health issues," Neal said.

Singer Eric Benet makes his lead acting debut in "Trinity Goodheart" written by Rhonda Freeman-Baraka. The film centers on a 12-year-old girl who is trying to bring her mixed-race family together.

"It's a great depiction of an American black family," director Joanna Hock said. "There needs to be an openness and acceptance to look at life in different ways and look at people in different ways and not be so dogmatic on we how approach relationships."

The festival also includes a 30-minute documentary on the making of "Boyz n the Hood," the 1991 box office hit by director John Singleton, who was nominated for a best director Academy Award at the age of 24. He will discuss "what the vibe was of the black filmmaking community" at the time.

"It was the first film that visualized what was going on in hip hop culture," Singleton said.

"Nobody like me had the opportunity to make that film. I didn't water down what I had to say with the picture. I was very focused in how I wanted the picture to feel and that's what makes it so enduring."

Singleton went on to direct Janet Jackson and former rapper Tupac Shakur in the 1993 film "Poetic Justice." He also directed the films "Higher Learning" and "Hustle & Flow," among dozens of others. He is currently in post- production of "Abduction," a thriller starring Taylor Lautner as a teenager who finds out that his parents aren't really his when he sees his baby picture on a missing person's website. The film is set to be released Sept. 23.

Comedian and director Keenen Ivory Wayans will be honored Saturday for his achievements in television and the big screen.

"He has desensitized race in films," said Jeff Friday, the festival's co-founder. "He's given us a platform to take race out of it and make it about comedy."

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