Ahad, 24 Julai 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates


News Corp's James Murdoch under pressure over hacking testimony

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 09:10 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - News Corp executive James Murdoch was under pressure on Monday over his handling of a phone-hacking scandal that has hit the Murdoch family's media empire and could jeopardise his own position at the company.

News International Chairman James Murdoch arrives at News International in London July 12, 2011. (REUTERS/Olivia Harris)

British police are considering a request from opposition Labour politician Tom Watson to investigate claims the 38-year-old son of News Corp head Rupert Murdoch gave "mistaken" testimony to a high profile hearing in parliament last week.

Separately Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant has written to News Corp's independent directors calling on them to suspend both James and his 80-year-old father for failing to exercise proper corporate control.

Later this week James Murdoch is expected to retain the support of investors and independent directors of BSkyB when the pay-TV company which he chairs and in which News Corp holds a 39 percent stake announces its financial results.

James and his father appeared before parliament's media committee on Tuesday to answer questions on phone-hacking. The scandal aroused public fury earlier this month after revelations the phone of missing school girl Milly Dowler had been hacked in 2002. The body of the murdered 13-year-old was found several months after she disappeared.

News Corp's British arm News International had maintained until then that previously known about incidents of the illegal practice at its News of the World tabloid was the work of a lone "rogue reporter".

However, two former senior figures at its British newspaper arm on Friday disputed James Murdoch's claim at the committee hearing that he had been unaware in 2008 of an e-mail that suggested such wrongdoing was more widespread.

OUT OF COURT PAYMENT

The email related to a 700,000 pound ($1.1 million) out-of-court settlement paid to the head of English soccer's players union and signed off by James Murdoch in 2008, shortly after he took charge of News Corp's European operations.

In a letter to the media committee's chairman James Murdoch said he had answered questions in parliament truthfully.

But lawmakers may now contact the men disputing his account, ex-News of the World editor Colin Myler and the newspaper group's top legal officer Tom Crone, to hear their version of events.

"James Murdoch is in a precarious position," said media analyst Steve Hewlett.

"If it emerges that he knew the details of what he was signing, then he's in trouble," said Hewlett.

"But if he knew absolutely nothing about why he was signing away so much money, then another question arises, as to whether he is competent to run the business, and whether he is a worthy successor to his father."

James Murdoch's position as chairman of BSkyB will come under scrutiny later this week when independent directors meet to discuss corporate governance.

But they are expected to back him, as are investors who are looking for a share buy back or special dividend when the firm reports its financial results on Friday.

James Murdoch can point to a highly successful four years as the company's chief executive before becoming as non-executive chairman in late 2007.

Several shareholders told Reuters last week they were supportive of James as chairman but would want to discuss the situation.

($1 = 0.613 British Pounds)

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Hotel maid in Strauss-Kahn case speaks out

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 09:10 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York hotel maid who accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her said in an interview published on Newsweek's website on Sunday that he appeared as a "crazy man" and attacked her when she entered his room.

Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is seen smiling through a car window as he departs his lawyer's office in New York July 6, 2011. The New York hotel maid who accused Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her said in an interview Sunday that he appeared as a "crazy man". (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files)

Nafissatou Diallo also gave the newsmagazine and ABC News permission to identify her by name.

The magazine interview marks the first time the 32-year-old Guinean immigrant to the United States has publicly spoken to the media since she shocked the world with allegations that Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from the bathroom of his luxury suite on May 14 and forced her to perform oral sex.

Until now, Reuters had kept to the practice in the United States of protecting the identity of alleged rape victims.

ABC News on Sunday also announced it would broadcast an interview with Diallo on Monday morning.

"I want justice. I want him to go to jail," she said in excerpts from the television interview released on Sunday.

"I want him to know that there is some places you cannot use your money, you cannot use your power when you do something like this," Diallo said.

One of Diallo's attorneys, Douglas Wigdor, told Reuters she has come forward to let the world know she is not a "shakedown artist or a prostitute."

"She's being attacked ... and she thought it was important to put a name and face to her account," Wigdor said.

She also plans to file a civil lawsuit soon, which means her name would become public, he added.

ABC reported Diallo also acknowledged "mistakes" but said that should not stop prosecutors from going forward.

"I never want to be in public but I have no choice," she told ABC News, adding "Now, I have to be in public. I have to, for myself. I have to tell the truth."

Diallo, who Newsweek said had agreed to be photographed for next week's edition, said she saw Strauss-Kahn appear naked in front of her when she opened the door to his suite. He was like "a crazy man to me," she said.

"You're beautiful," she reported Strauss-Kahn as saying, and said he attacked her despite her protestations.

DENIES ALL CHARGES

Strauss-Kahn, 62, has repeatedly denied all the charges against him. In a statement on Sunday, his lawyers called the interview a last-ditch effort by the maid and her lawyers to extract money from the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

She is "the first accuser in history to conduct a media campaign to persuade a prosecutor to pursue charges against a person from whom she wants money," lawyers Benjamin Brafman and William Taylor said.

"Her lawyers and public relations consultants have orchestrated an unprecedented number of media events and rallies to bring pressure on the prosecutors in this case after she had to admit her extraordinary efforts to mislead them."

Her credibility was thrown into question when Manhattan prosecutors revealed Diallo told authorities numerous lies, including fabricating a story about being gang-raped in Guinea in order to gain U.S. asylum. She also changed details of her story about what happened following the purported assault.

Wigdor said Diallo has worried that prosecutors would drop the charges. "That has been a concern, but we're all hopeful that the district attorney's going to do the right thing," he said.

A spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had no comment on the interviews, saying: "We will not discuss the facts or evidence in what remains an ongoing investigation."

FLED AFTER RAPE

After arriving from Guinea in 2003, Diallo, who is illiterate, told Newsweek she spent years braiding hair before working at a bodega in New York City's Bronx borough. As a maid at the Sofitel hotel, she received $25 an hour plus tips.

Diallo said her husband in Guinea died of an illness but did not provide further details. Roughly two years after being raped by two soldiers in Conakry, the Guinean capital, she fled with her daughter, now 15, to the United States, where she said she has few close friends.

Following the alleged attack, Diallo spent weeks in protective custody, holed up in a hotel with her daughter.

"She's been in seclusion for over two months. She hasn't been able to take a walk in the park," her lawyer said.

French newspaper France Soir reported in a front page headline that David Koubbi, the lawyer for French writer Tristane Banon, who has accused Strauss-Kahn of a 2003 sexual assault, had met with Diallo. It added only that he "was impressed by her courage."

(Reporting by Basil Katz; Additional reporting by Noeleen Walder in New York and JoAnne Allen in Washington; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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In rural town, Norway attacker seemed city loner

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 09:10 PM PDT

RENA, Norway (Reuters) - A right-wing zealot who has confessed to killing 93 people in Norway seemed a polite "city man" out of place in a small rural town where he leased a hideaway farm to plot his attacks.

People gather to offer flowers in tribute to the victims of Friday's twin attack in Oslo outside the cathedral of Oslo July 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Berit Roald/Scanpix)

"He said he was a farmer," said Trine Stetten, a 22-year-old hairdresser, who had stood next to Anders Behring Breivik while her partner in a local salon clipped his hair a month or so ago.

"He had a PC bag with him and nice clothes ... we thought it was really weird that he was a farmer," she said.

Breivik, the 32-year-old Norwegian who has admitted to shooting dead 86 people and planting a bomb that killed seven others on Friday, leased a farm in the municipality of Rena, about 160 kilometres north of Oslo, this spring.

In the small town, he brushed elbows with locals, including at a pub called the Cuckoo's Nest frequented by soldiers from the elite Telemark Battalion whose 2,000-strong base is in Rena.

Breivik said in a May 12 entry in his Internet-posted diary: "It's quite ironic being situated practically on top of the largest military base in the country. It would have saved me a lot of hassle if I could just 'borrow' a cup of sugar and 3kg of C4 (explosive) from my dear neighbour."

People in Rena said he could not help but stand out.

"He asked for a receipt and paid with cards -- nobody here asks for a receipt for a beer, and we just throw them away," said Hanne Skavern, 20, who works at the pub and some days at a petrol station.

WRONG WORDS

Svein Meldieseth, a burly 61-year farmer who made a deal with Breivik this spring to cut and buy the hay that grows at the leased farm in the village of Aasta, said Breivik appeared to be a "city man."

"He told me I could 'clip' it -- we say 'cut' in farming, so that tells a little about what he knew about farming," Meldieseth said.

Lasse Nordlie, owner of the Gjoekeredet Pub -- the Norwegian word for Cuckoo's Nest, a reference to a film starring Jack Nicholson as a patient in a psychiatric hospital -- said he did not remember seeing Breivik but said Rena was the perfect place for someone who wanted to avoid attention.

"It's easy to get under the radar here, and there's no view of the farm from the road," said Nordlie, age 34.

Rena residents who talked to Reuters said they had only ever seen Breivik alone. He has told police he carried out the attacks alone.

On a good Saturday night, Nordlie said, 150-200 soldiers from the Rena Camp drink at his pub, whose wall bears a banner from the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and dance in the basement disco dubbed the Psych Ward Nightclub.

The bartenders in the nightclub, which is decorated with photographs Nordlie took at the abandoned Lier psychiatric hospital near Drammen, wear white doctor's coats.

"I am going to have to lie low with this psychiatric ward stuff for a while, maybe keep the disco shut for a while," Nordlie said.

Down the Rena main street from the Cuckoo's Nest, Breivik dined at the Milano Rena Restaurante five or six times, the two Turkish owners said.

"He sat with his hands-free (mobile phone earpiece) and wrote in a notebook," said Eyup Ali Aykut, adding he never heard Breivik talking to anyone on the phone.

"He ate shrimp as a starter, beef a la Rena and apple pie for desert. He drank soft drinks - a cola."

"He was exceedingly nice," said Bilal Guclu, co-proprietor of the restaurant, which shares a two-storey white building with the local police department.

(Editing by Sophie Hares)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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Travel tips

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 11:55 PM PDT

Samantha Brown shares some travelling tips.

> Never overload your itinerary: "Most people tend to have too many things on the 'to do' list. The best is to get out of the tourist centres and go to where people live. Sit in one of the cafes not because it is in the tour guide but because you want to be there. Travel gives a sense of discovery."

> Greet people wherever you go: "Learn to speak a local language. A person becomes less of a stranger when you speak his language."

> Survival food: "Peanut butter is something I carry throughout my travels. It comes in handy when I arrive at many destinations late and the restaurants are closed."

> Books: "I always carry a poetry book to ease my mind after a tiring day. Robert Frost is my favourite poet."

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Exploring Asia

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 11:54 PM PDT

TV host Samantha Brown seeks out authentic experiences in Asia.

HONESTLY, who wouldn't love to have Samantha Brown's job? She gets to travel all around the world, stay in vacation homes in Hawaii, luxury homes in Europe and eat all she wants on TLC's Passport To Europe, Passport To Latin America, Great Hotels, Girl Meets Hawaii, Great Vacation Homes and Samantha Brown's Great Weekends.

"While it might seem like the best job, people don't realise that I work 14-hour days when recording a show. I travel more than 230 days a year and a lot of time is spent on the road. It can be equally tiring having to record programmes in hot climates.

"I also feel lonely and homesick as I am away for three weeks at a stretch. I miss my family and friends and often lose out on big events, including weddings and kids' birthdays," said Brown, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote her new travel programme, Samantha Brown's Asia (SBA).

But aside from bad days, there is no denying she has one of the best jobs in the world.

"I get to meet people from different cultures, all over the world. The challenge of seeing where I fit in and how I can make a connection with people who are completely different is absolutely thrilling. That is the driving factor," said the 42-year-old, who resides in New York with her computer specialist husband, Kevin O'Leary.

Since landing her first show on Travel Channel nearly 13 years ago, the effervescent lady has won the hearts of those who love to travel (or watch from the comfort of their living room). Judging from her warm, laidback approach and good-natured spunk during this interview, there is no wonder why this travel aficionado is a hit with viewers.

"I am not a travel expert and don't think of myself as a stand-offish TV host. I present myself as an ordinary person, so people regard me as their good friend. And it means the world to me that I am perceived the same way in Asia," said Brown, who had worked as a stage actress in the Big Apple before landing the TV hosting job.

On SBA, premiering today (10pm) on TLC (Astro Channel 707), Brown sets her sights on discovering the allure of this diverse continent. Travelling across South-East Asia, Hong Kong and Japan, the world traveller seeks out authentic experiences while providing travel tips and unique insights to each country visited.

"Eight countries are featured in this series. We included Japan as we wanted to feature the cherry blossoms. Vietnam and Bali have always fascinated Americans so these countries were on our list. We would have loved to visit India but it is such a large country which could not have been covered in one episode."

The pilot episode sees her venturing to Vietnam for a trip full of adventure, compelling history, delectable cuisine and fascinating culture. From the Sa Pa region in the North, where Brown stays with a tribal family, to the cultural capital of Hanoi, she explores the famous tunnels of Cu Chi and the floating villages.

The episode on Malaysia will be aired on Aug 28. Brown visits Penang and the capital city. She also heads off to Cameron Highlands in Pahang and a rainforest in Ipoh, and learns about our rich cultural traditions.

"Some of my favourite experiences in Malaysia included being at the tea plantation in Cameron Highlands and discovering how tea leaves look like before being put into the little white bags.

"I also enjoyed Penang's hawker food and mingling with the orang asli community in Ipoh. I had a memorable experience trying my hand at blowing poison darts and fishing with villagers," said Brown, as her eyes lit up with enthusiasm.

Samantha Brown's Asia premieres today (10pm) on TLC (Astro Channel 707) with repeats on Saturday (3pm) and the following Monday (4pm).

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'Drop Dead Diva' is TV magnet for guest stars

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 04:24 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Some TV shows really know how to use the venerable tradition of stunt casting.

"All in the Family" created a classic when Sammy Davis Jr. dropped in on the Bunkers and gave racism the kiss-off. "Love Boat" trafficked in volume and variety, with an A-to-Z roll call of guest stars ranging from Eve Arden to Adrian Zmed.

Lifetime's quirky fantasy "Drop Dead Diva," shown on Sunday nights, is putting its own spin on the convention, boosted by a celebrity fan club that likes to do more than watch.

A partial accounting of this season's guests alone includes Paula Abdul, Brandy Norwood, Kathy Griffin, LeAnn Rimes, Lance Bass, Quinton Aaron, Valerie Harper, Nancy Grace, Jamie Lynn Sigler and Clay Aiken.

Past visitors include Liza Minnelli, Faith Prince, Delta Burke, Tim Gunn, Vivica A. Fox and Jennifer Tilly.

Series executive producer Josh Berman, who was a longtime writer for "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Bones," said luring celebrities to those dramas was a challenge compared to "Drop Dead Diva."

"Stars started calling us in the first season," Berman said, with others tweeting their yearning to drop in on "Diva."

An element of prestige has been added: The series is among the finalists announced this month for the annual Humanitas Prize, which honors film and TV writers whose work meaningfully explores the human condition.

The comedy-drama stars Brooke Elliott as a self-absorbed model who dies in an accident and finds her soul shifted to the body of a newly dead, plus-size attorney. In this week's episode, Elliott's character, Jane, represents a lesbian couple banned from a high school prom. Bass, Aiken, Wanda Sykes and Amanda Bearse, all openly gay, guest star.

Berman acknowledges that his show's per-episode average of 2.4 million viewers is dwarfed by the double-digit pull of crime shows. But stars don't necessarily want to be plugged into a murder-of-the-week plot, Berman said - and "Diva" also knows how to play the good host.

"We try to custom-write roles for stars we pursue as well as those that ask us. We tailor a role," he said. "I think it's rare in which a show has a writer get together with a guest star and say, 'Let's talk about your part.' "If Paula wants to act, sing or dance, we'll make sure she does what she wants to," he said of Abdul.

Formerly of "American Idol" and now part of the upcoming "The X Factor" singing contest, Abdul is the leader of the "Diva" pack with five performances that have cast her in various roles including a wedding planner and - familiar turf - a judge.

She calls the show a charmer with "characters that are rich and fun, and with a great message." It's also a kick, she added.

"Every time I appear on the show they make it feel like it's a party and it's not work," Abdul said.

It's also good exposure for Abdul, who said she's interested in starring in a drama or comedy series that could fit around her "X Factor" duties, and other guest stars.

After filming a three-episode arc shaped around Norwood, Berman said he's talking with her about joining as a series regular next year. It could lead to other roles as well, the actress said.

"This is a great opportunity for me to find my rhythm again in television. ... It's a way for people to see me in a new light who haven't seen me on television consistently since 'Moesha,"' she said.

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The Star Online: Sports

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O'Hair wins Canadian Open on 1st playoff hole

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 06:30 PM PDT

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Sean O'Hair won the RBC Canadian Open after tapping in for bogey on the first playoff hole on Sunday, and then watching fellow American Kris Blanks lip out his bogey putt from just over 5 feet.

It was the fourth PGA Tour victory for O'Hair, who started three shots off the lead before shooting 68 to get into the playoff with Blanks (70) at 4-under 276.

Argentina's Andres Romero (70) bogeyed the final hole to miss the playoff and finish alone in third at 277.

Canadian Adam Hadwin, a local playing on a sponsor's exemption, struggled early before bouncing back late to finish with a 72 and tied with Geoff Ogilvy (70) for fourth place at 2-under. John Daly (72) finish in a four-way tie for ninth, his first top-10 in six years.

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Fish beats Isner for 2nd straight Atlanta title

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 05:52 PM PDT

NORCROSS, Georgia (AP) - Mardy Fish beat fellow-American John Isner in the final for the second straight year at the Atlanta Tennis Championships, earning a 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory Sunday.

Fish, ranked No. 9 in the world, held off two straight match points in the second set to rally from a 5-1 deficit in the tiebreak.

"When you're in that position, it's almost over," Fish said. "I was lucky to get out of it. I played some good points. I don't think he missed any first serves there. I stuck some returns and put some balls in play."

Isner was trying to win consecutive events for the first time in his career just as Fish did in 2010 at Newport and Atlanta.

But Isner's last service game included two double-faults. He committed 29 unforced errors to Fish's 11 through two sets.

"I didn't necessarily change anything tactically," Fish said. "I took care of my serve games a little bit better once I lost serve in the first game of the second." After blowing the two match points, Isner couldn't regain momentum. Losing the point on his serve hurt badly.

"I missed the first serve," he said. "In hindsight, I probably should've served and volleyed on the second serve. I should've done that more during the first of the match to begin with. He got it in play, and I went with too big of a backhand and missed it by a lot. You know, he played that point well. And the next points after that, he served two really good serves. Um, but that's what happens."

Fish improved to 6-12 in ATP tour finals, 3-1 in his career against Isner. Sunday was the first time he defended a championship successfully.

"It feels great to win here again," Fish said. "It feels great to start off the summer like I did last year."

Isner sounded as if he might need a couple of days to get over a chance to win his second straight event.

"I had a match point on my serve," Isner said. "You can't ask for much more than that. That's how it goes. It's still a good week. I really, really wish I could've won this title. It wasn't to be."

Matthew Ebden of Australia won his second straight doubles title, teaming this week with Alex Bogomolov Jr., in a 3-6, 7-5, 10-8 super-tiebreaker victory over Matthias Bachinger and Frank Moser of Germany.

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Chong Wei’s autobiography set to hit market after world meet

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 05:32 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: An autobiography of Malaysia's most successful badminton player Lee Chong Wei (pic) is set to hit the market after he accomplishes his task at the World Championships which will be held at Wembley from Aug 8-14.

The production of his first ever book is one of the many outside activities that Chong Wei has been juggling together with his strenuous training sessions over the last few months leading to his sixth world championships outing.

The book is about his life as a badminton player and it is meant to give courage and hope for many aspiring youngsters, whose dreams are to make it big in badminton or in any other sports.

Besides working on the book, Chong Wei has also been involved in many promotional events as part of his obligation and duties of being a national player, brand ambassadors of many products and commitments to inspire youngsters through coaching clinics.

He also has his name tied up with academies and training halls, which are run by his family members and friends.

Chong Wei, who has been holding on to his World No. 1 tag for the last four years, said that prioritising events was the key to avoiding a chaotic life.

"My priority has always been badminton. I am where I am because of badminton. I give utmost importance to training and having a good deal of rest. The other activities are planned in such a way that they do not interfere with my badminton training and travel," said Chong Wei.

"I train half day on Thursdays and so I am able to do other things on this day – like recording from the television, attending functions and etc. I also make sure that I have good rest in between my training schedule and other activities. It takes a lot of discipline to do it.

"And this year, I have engaged a consultant team to help me manage my outside activities and that really helps too."

For Chong Wei, there are three key professionals working behind the scene – one is a brand consultant, one is a finance adviser and the other looks into all the legal matters.

Of all the outside ventures he had done, Chong Wei said that he had a special spot for the upcoming book.

"It is about my life. It talks about the people behind my journey as a badminton player. Hopefully, my life experiences will encourage others and motivate them to realise their dreams. More details of this book will be given later," he said.

On his world championships' preparation, Chong Wei said: "My back problem has been treated and I have resumed my training sessions in full force. It is back to the same old regime in training."

Chong Wei conceded a walkover in the semi-finals of the Kedah Open two weeks ago after suffering muscle spasms on his back. It was the same injury that saw him run out of steam against Indonesia's Taufik Hidayat in the quarter-final of last year's world meet in Paris.

Today, Chong Wei, who has been seeded No. 1 in the world meet, will find out the path that he has to take in his bid to become the country's first world champion when the Badminton World Federation (BWF) unveils the draw for the world meet at a hotel here in Kuala Lumpur.

Then, Chong Wei and the other Malaysian shuttlers will leave for Bath University for a short centralised training from July 27-Aug 4 to get acclimatised to the weather and also to focus on training sessions without any major distractions.

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The Star Online: Business

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UAE's Etisalat, Spain's Telefonica to cooperate

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 05:41 PM PDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - The United Arab Emirates' largest telecom, Etisalat, and Spain's Telefonica say they have signed a wide-ranging deal to cooperate across several business areas.

The companies say the deal covers collaboration on technological standardization, research and development and the implementation of new services, among other areas. The statement was sent by Etisalat on Sunday but dated July 21.

The two companies say the agreement will help them compete better in their own markets by increasing efficiency, boosting innovation and cutting costs.

The deal takes effect immediately. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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Emirates Aluminium plans US$4.5bil expansion

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 05:38 PM PDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - A government-run aluminum smelter in the United Arab Emirates plans to spend $4.5 billion to nearly double its potential output of the widely used metal.

Emirates Aluminium said Sunday that its board approved the expansion plan to increase annual capacity to 1.3 million metric tons (1.4 million tons) by the end of 2014. The facility can now produce 750,000 metric tons (827,000 tons) of aluminum per year.

The Emirates Aluminium smelter is located at al-Taweelah, a coastal industrial complex between Dubai and the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.

The company is a joint venture between state-run Dubai Aluminium and Abu Dhabi government investment firm Mubadala Development Company.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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Qatar to sell liquefied natural gas to Malaysia

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 05:36 PM PDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Qatar's state-run Qatargas says it has agreed to sell 1.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually to Malaysia, locking in its first major customer in Southeast Asia.

The company says it signed a preliminary agreement with Malaysia's Petronas LNG on Sunday in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The supply deal is expected to start in 2013 and last for two decades. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

Qatargas says the deal will satisfy about 5 percent of Malaysia's natural gas needs. Qatargas CEO Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani says it's the company's first such deal in the region.

Qatar holds the world's third largest natural gas reserves. It is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas, a supercooled form of the fuel transported on massive tanker ships. - AP

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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The Star Online: Nation

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Two Selangor villages hold nominations for village chiefs

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 04:19 AM PDT

KLANG: Nominations for the election of heads of two villages in Selangor was held Sunday as part of a three-village pilot project by the state government which is keen on expanding local polls to other areas in the state.

In Kampung Baru Sungai Jarom, businessman Tan Ching Hin retained the position of village chief on Sunday uncontested.

The nomination, which started from 9am to 10am, saw only Tan and about 30 of his supporters at the nomination centre in Dewan Ramai Sungai Jarom in Jenjarom.

Kuala Langat acting district officer Siti Amrah said Tan had won the seat uncontested, and so there would not be a polling day, which was scheduled for next Sunday.

However, Tan's position as the village chief has to be endorsed by the state executive committee.

In Kampung Bagan Pulau Ketam there will be a straight fight between the incumbent village chief Cha Keng Lee, 46, and his opponent Chua Chin Song,44, a fish distributor on polling day on July 31 when 3,600 eligible voters will cast their ballots at Balai Raya JKKK Kampung Bagan Pulau Ketam, which will be the polling centre.

The Returning Officer is Datuk Bakhtiar Husin, who is also the Klang District Officer.

The third village in this pilot project is Kampung Pandamaran, which will hold nominations on Aug 7 ahead of polling on Aug 14.

The success of the election for the three village chiefs will determine if all other villages in Selangor will get to elect their chiefs.

Local elections were suspended in 1964 and local councillors had since been appointed by the respective state governments.

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Filipina maid found murdered in her bedroom

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 03:44 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: A Filipina maid was found murdered in her employer's home at Jalan Gasing near here.

The employer discovered the victim's body in her bedroom at 11.45pm on Saturday after returning home from dinner.

Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Arjunaidi Mohamed said Sunday police believe the murderer was known to the 36-year-old victim as there were no signs of break-in.

Initial police forensics unit findings show the victim, who was fully clothed, had bruise marks on her neck, suggesting she was strangled, and blunt force trauma marks to the back of her head.

"Several items were reported missing and we are still investigating as no suspects have been identified so far," he said.

The victim had been working as a maid at the home for the past 9 years.

The victim's body was sent to the University Malaya Medical Center (PPUM) for post mortem.

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Clinton: South China Sea disputes need urgent work

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 02:09 AM PDT

BALI: Increasing and sometimes violent encounters between China and its neighbors with competing claims in the South China Sea are driving up shipping costs and risk getting "out of control," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned on Sunday, underscoring the urgency of peacefully resolving disputes over resources and territory in the strategic waters.

Speaking in Bali, Indonesia, where China and the Association of Southeast Asian nations took a first step toward establishing a binding code of conduct for the South China Sea last week, Clinton said that dangerous incidents were on the rise.

She said the international community has a vested interest in ending them because they threaten the stability, economic growth and prosperity of the entire Asia-Pacific.

"The rest of the world needs to weigh in because all of us have a stake in ensuring that these disputes don't get out of control," Clinton told reporters at a joint news conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

"We ... urge that ASEAN move quickly, I would even add urgently, to adopt a code of conduct that will avoid any problems in the vital sea lanes and territorial waters of the South China Sea."

Clinton said increasing incidents of intimidation - such as the ramming of boats and cutting of vessels' cables - were ratcheting up tensions and raising the "cost of doing business for everyone who travels through the South China Sea."

"It is important for us to support freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, so there is no question as to the rights of every nation for its ships, its goods, to pass through the South China Sea," she said.

Clinton was in Bali to attend Asia's largest security conference ahead of which China and ASEAN reached agreement on a declaration intended to pave the way for a code of conduct.

But achieving that goal is fraught with difficulty as China has for years rejected such a formal mechanism, preferring to deal with individual countries where its sheer size and strength gives it an advantage.

As she did at the conference on Saturday, Clinton urged all parties to show restraint and to comply with international law.

She said all claimants should submit documentation establishing their claims consistent with the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas.

"We think simultaneously there needs to be a very concerted effort to realize a code of conduct and there needs to be a call by the international community to clarify the claims," she said.

"Every claimant must make their claim publicly and specifically known so that we know where there is any dispute."

China claims the entire, potentially resource-rich and strategic sea through which one-third of the world's shipping passes.

But others, including ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, and Taiwan have partial or overlapping claims.

The loudest protests have come from the Philippines and Vietnam, saying increasingly assertive Chinese ships have interfered with their oil-exploration efforts or bullied crews, something Beijing denies.

Those incidents have caused tempers to flare and stoked nationalistic sentiments that some fear could escalate.

On Sunday in Vietnam, about 200 Vietnamese protesters marched around Hanoi's landmark lake, waving flags, singing the national anthem and demanding that China stay out of Vietnamese territory.

Some held signs showing the Chinese flag marked with pirates' skulls.

Indonesia, which is the current chair of ASEAN, does not have any claims in the South China Sea but Natalegawa said his country understood the critical importance of following through on the preliminary steps.

"The key part here is that we must make sure that this is not the end of the line, this is but the beginning," he said.

"Letting things (remain) in the status quo can be possibly destabilizing and creating uncertainty and opening the potential for miscalculation. This is what we wish to avoid."

Natalegawa said he hoped that progress could be made on a code of conduct before November when Indonesia will host the East Asia Summit, a gathering of leaders from the region and beyond that U.S. President Barack Obama will attend. - AP

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf


Bestsellers

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 12:19 AM PDT

FOR week ending July 17, 2011:

Non-fiction

1. A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs Of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

2. Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going by Han Fook Kwang, et al

3. Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock (revised, updated second edition) by Alan Shadrake

4. A World Without Islam by Graham E. Fuller

5. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

6. Chicken Soup For The Soul: Think Positive: 101 Inspirational Stories About Counting Your Blessings And Having A Positive Attitude by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Amy Newmark

7. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

8. Quantum Leaps: 100 Scientists Who Changed The World by Jon Balchin

9. For The Love Of A Son: One Afghan Woman's Quest For Her Stolen Child by Jean Sasson

10. Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps To Living At Your Full Potential by Joel Osteen

Fiction

1. The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

2. Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett

3. The Heiress by Lynsay Sands

4. Luka And The Fire Of Life by Salman Rushdie

5. The Confession by John Grisham

6. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

7. Swimming Pool Sunday by Madeleine Wickham

8. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

10. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; www.mphonline.com.

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Mesmerising mermaids

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 12:18 AM PDT

Look beyond the sanitised Disney version of these mythical creatures and discover a whole different side to them. Flesh-eating mermaids, anyone?

I'M told that mermaids are the next big (floppy and wet) thing in young adult fiction. A rather anatomically inconvenient mythological creature to write about, if you ask me. The tail, of course, would be an excellent method of birth control. In fact, it would prohibit sexual intercourse altogether (wouldn't it? My knowledge of aquatic vertebrate anatomy is practically non-existent) and this would surely meet with the approval of nervous parents and those who promote sexual abstinence among the young.

And what about the settings of these books? Mermaids have restricted mobility and any action would have to take place by the sea, on the sea or in the sea. I'm not sure if they need salt water to survive. If not, then at least these mermaid characters could also hang out in a swimming pool, or bath-tub. At a pinch they might also be propped up in a shower stall with the water running.

In The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, a mermaid manages to replace her tail with legs and feet, but at great cost. Every step she takes with new feet feels like she's walking on sharp knives. I have always found this story really off-putting because of the extremes this little twit is willing to go through for a man.

Disney's version of the mermaid is even more annoying. Well, for a start, she's animated and so, not only do we get to read about her folly, we also get to watch her making an extreme fool of herself.

Fans of the movie have argued that Ariel, the little mermaid, is an adventurous, head-strong young woman who is prepared to defy her father in order to live her dream, but all I see is a silly girl who gives up her voice (her most precious asset) and her family for a man she knows next to nothing about.

Of course, as it's Disney, the prince falls in love with Ariel without having had a single conversation with her. This hardly matters – after all, as Ursula tells Ariel: "On land it's much preferred for ladies not to say a word...." Come on! "They're not all that impressed with conversation, true gentlemen avoid it when they can. But they dote and swoon and fawn on a lady who's withdrawn! It's she who holds her tongue who gets her man." Ugh.

Well, if you like the story of the little mermaid, the story has been retold by Carolyn Turgeon as Mermaid: A Twist On The Classic Tale (Broadway, 256 pages).

Another young adult (YA) novel about mermaids is The Mermaid's Mirror (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 320 pages) by L.K. Madigan. This one is about a girl who is inexplicably drawn to the ocean up to the point of sleepwalking on the beach and to the edge of the sea. She nearly drowns one day and is saved by a mermaid who reveals a secret about Lena's identity. Hmm, I wonder what it could be.

Then there's a new trilogy called Lost Voices. The first book (Harcourt Children's Books, 304 pages) has just been released and tells the tale of Luce, assaulted and left for dead on a clifftop. When she falls into the water below, Luce thinks she will drown but, instead, she changes into a mermaid. Welcomed by other mermaids who were once human girls, Luce discovers that she is now doomed to a life spent luring men to their deaths.

The best mermaid-related tale I've ever heard is the one told in The Mermaid Saga, a series of graphic novels by Rumiko Takahashi.

The mermaids in this story are not the long-haired, sweet-voiced beauties who sit on rocks, combing their hair and turning shells and seaweed into fashion accessories.

The mermaids here are evil flesh-eating creatures who keep young by consuming human flesh. Humans who eat mermaid flesh will become immortal, but might just as easily die or turn into a monster, or Lost Soul.

The Mermaid Saga is about a 500-year-old immortal who ate mermaid flesh when he was a young man. While looking for a cure to his immortality he meets an immortal girl whom he helps escape from a village of mermaids. The girl was being fattened up by the mermaids who were planning to eat her once she reached puberty.

Not quite what you were expecting of mermaids, right?

> Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to the above address and check out her blog at daphne.blogs.com/books.

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When kids read

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 12:16 AM PDT

ONE evening, while I was in the kitchen of our home in Sydney, my daughter was scribbling on a card she had made for her cousin in San Francisco. She was going to write "I Love You", she said. Zehn will need my help to write those words, I told myself while peeling the onions and garlic. Or so I thought.

She wrote those three words flawlessly with a full stop neatly placed at the end, and signed her name in the right place, too. How could that be? She's not even four yet!

My eight-year-old son came into the kitchen and praised Zehn for having done such a marvellous job in both designing the card and writing on it. "She has miraculously become literate, mum, and she seems so nonchalant about it," he said casually.

I was further dumbfounded as I had no idea when and from where my son had learnt the meanings of "miraculous", "literate" and "nonchalant".

"They were part of my spelling words and I had seen them before in Roald Dahl's books," he deadpanned, walking off to play with his Lego blocks since there was no homework to complete – Australian primary schools do not give work in the first week back after a two-week winter break.

That is the magic of Australian primary education. Children learn without parents knowing much about it. While children are content with the relaxed learning environment in which they acquire knowledge through play and God knows what else, parents, Asian parents in particular, worry because there is no way of knowing what their children are learning every day at school.

There are no textbooks to bring home, and homework is often minimal – one page of math and another of English. There are no impromptu tests nor is there a ranking system that tells parents how their children's academic performance compares with others in the class. Some Asian parents I know have resorted to sending their children for tutoring; others simply accept the system and learn to be equally relaxed. I am one of the latter group.

Though I do look for pieces of papers in my son's school bag in hopes of finding clues to what he has done at school, I can never get anything more than just the school's weekly newsletter that provides updates about the school. I have attempted to ask him but his replies can be unsettling. "We watched a movie," he sometimes says. But he does not say anything about the play they have to put up after the movie. He learns to speak in various intonations through role-play and grasps the importance of punctuation by reading scripts. "Commas give your sentences tones," he mutters, as he sits doing his homework, which is to write a suspenseful narrative.

I can only listen in wonder at these times when he unconsciously releases these intriguing clues to his development as a reader and writer.

"Please, thank you. Please, thank you," my daughter, who attends pre-school, repeats this little song as she warms herself in the bathtub. "I said 'thank you' when Isabelle said my shoes were pretty, mum."

I struggle to come up with a sensible response: "That's right. We should not feel shy when praised and we thank people for the compliment."

"Thank you, please. Thank you, please," she continues singing.

Tie neatly done up and shirt tucked in, my son is ready for school on a rainy morning. "This rain is unremitting. It has been raining for five days in a row now, hasn't it, mum?" he says casually. I can only smile. His choice of words is simply too much for me to comprehend on this rainy day – and, no doubt, will be on many other days in the future.

"Don't lament about the weather, Jonn. I love rainy days, they are so romantic," my daughter adds, as if to give her mother the final push round the bend.

When I say to my husband in Mandarin how crazy our kids have become in their choice of words, my son throws me a wry look. "I am not crazy," Jonn says firmly.

I gave up. My mother's lament about my children's loss of a second language had just been proven groundless. My son learns Mandarin in school because his mother lacks the will to teach him.

"This is going to be the best day ever," exclaims my daughter, as she looks eagerly forward to another day at preschool.

What wonders can be wrought with a relaxed learning environment at school and a bookworm "infestation" at home!

'My face is as soft as putty, mum,' says Abby Wong's daughter, terrifying mum with her use of simile.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies


'Grimm' premiere episode unfolds at Comic-Con

Posted: 23 Jul 2011 08:11 PM PDT

SAN DIEGO (AP): "Grimm" plans to turn fairytales on their heads.

After previewing the first episode of NBC's upcoming storytelling-meets-crimefighting procedural, which is loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood, the "Grimm" cast and crew promised Comic-Con attendees that other bedtime stories would be transformed into supernatural cases, including the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, the show's writers and executive producers, said the show would solve a fairytale-inspired crime each week, but Greenwalt added there would be "arcs for all the characters and terrible things are going to happen to them."

The show takes place and will be filmed in Portland, Ore. Actress Bitsie Tulloch said the town is the perfect setting for the mythological procedural because it has a "built-in eeriness."

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion


Art that speaks

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 01:16 AM PDT

Eight artists show off talents that shout to be seen.

EVERY word is a struggle and his face is twisted with effort. At times, it seems as if the words have to be forced out of Nazmi Kamarulzaman bit by bit.

"This art exhibition… will help create a better awareness… of the talents and potential of people… with learning disabilities."

Nazmi is a committee member of United Voice (unitedvoice.com.my), a society that believes those suffering from Down's syndrome, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, among other conditions, should speak up – for themselves – about their needs.

He was at the launch of the United Voice art exhibition at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC), Kuala Lumpur, an event that is part of the Tourism Ministry's 1Malaysia Contemporary Arts Tourism Festival (1MCAT).

Eight artists are showing some 80 works and they certainly have amazing talent.

One of them is Clement Ooi, 22. Despite his autism, he is a successful artist in his own right, what with numerous art shows (including two solos) and various awards (including from the Bryan Ayers Memorial Exhibition of North Carolina, the United States). His collectors come from as far afield as Switzerland, Japan and America.

Clement's paintings of flowers and butterflies are full of radiant colours and bold strokes, in contrast to his reserved personality. So it is his mother, Annie Kam, who speaks of his various achievements while he wanders away from the glare of publicity.

She proudly shows off his other paintings on a small digital camera and talks about her son's website (clementooi.net).

But Kam admits things were much tougher when Clement was younger. "We didn't understand his condition then. But we noticed that he liked doodling for hours, from the time he was five. Luckily I like art and could guide him."

In contrast, the parents of Dennis Liew did not quite understand how to guide their son when they saw him doing detailed pictures of buildings when he was a young boy.

"We tried to discourage him from art in those days, but later realised we were wrong," says mum Patricia Liew, an accountant. "My husband is an engineer. We were not from the creative field and could not quite relate to it."

Looking at Dennis' luminously translucent Chinese brush paintings of bougainvilleas, grapes and cockerels, one feels glad that his parents eventually allowed his natural talent to bloom .

"I can paint for up to four hours and not feel tired," says the 25-year-old artist, who has Asperger Syndrome, a neurobiological disorder. "I just let it flow and feel very inspired and relaxed. I've also been reading up on Chinese and Japanese art."

Dennis has a degree in graphic design from Curtin University, Western Australia, and now does commercial advertisements, brochures and merchandise such as caps and T-shirts. He led guests at the launch through the exhibits using a slideshow, a good example of United Voice's goal that the differently-abled should be self-advocates for their special talents.

As for Chee Siew Chong, 17, the first time his father Kenny Chee noticed his artistic skill was after a road trip to Singapore.

"When we came home, my son drew all the highway exits we had passed. He was just six then," Chee recalls.

Siew Chong has a penchant for intricate line drawings of buildings and landscapes and will often just take out his ink pen and sketchbook to doodle when travelling to places of interest. Lately, he has been drawing images from the Internet that catch his fancy. He goes to a special education school in Rawang, Selangor.

Damien Wong, born in 1995, is autistic. But such is his natural talent that in 2008, his first painting received the Special Merit Award from the Brian Ayers Memorial exhibition in Boone, North Carolina.

Damien is fond of cheerful, bright colours and has worked with pen and ink, colour pencil, crayon, watercolour and acrylic.

When Tan Seng Kit, 22, wanted to watch the movie Chicken Little, he drew the cartoon character.

"When he was young, he didn't talk," explains his mother, Jenny Soh. "So he would draw out everything he wanted, like a fried egg."

An artist, whom Soh declines to name, noticed her son's talent. So she started him on art classes eight years ago.

Earlier this year, Seng Kit won third placing at the National Abilympics Art Competition.

Besides painting, he also bowls. He won a silver medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai, China, in 2007.

"I hope the public can be more aware of the abilities, rather than the disabilities, of these people," Soh adds.

Nurulakhmal Abdul Rahman, 20, used to observe the graceful movement of insects in parks for hours, and then go home to her drawing block. In 2008, she won the first and third prizes at an art competition organised by Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd. She has produced vivid paintings of flowers and insects for the current show.

Her mother, Wairah Marzuki, formerly director-general of the National Art Gallery, is now an advisor for the United Voice Art Gallery.

"Art is one way for people like my daughter to earn an income and groups like United Voice have good young talents. We need more support from corporate social responsibility programmes," Wairah says.

> United Voice is on at MaTiC (No. 109, Jalan Ampang, KL) till July 31, after which it will move to the United Voice Art Gallery (No. 603, Jalan 17/12, Petaling Jaya, Selangor).

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A toast to art

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 01:06 AM PDT

FRENCH cognac maker Martell aims to honour art in all its forms by creating a platform for artists and designers to express their vision and ideas, through its Martell Art Expressions gallery showcase.

Earlier this month, the Martell Amber Lamp, designed by acclaimed architect Jean Nouvel, was added to the showcase. The event was held at the Bridge Bar, GTower in Kuala Lumpur, where the showcase is currently housed.

Celebrating Martell's closeness to the world of architecture in particular, and art in general, the creations are specially crafted by both international and local artists.

Besides the Amber Lamp, other items on display include the L'Art de Martell Decanter, designed by French glassmakers Daum; the Martell Creation Grand Extra Decanter (by Sergeu Mansau); the Martell VSOP Limited Edition Snifter Set (by Malaysian fashion designer Daniel Chong), and the Limited Edition Martell VSOP Blink Glasses (by Lau Hoe Yin aka DJ Blink).

Fifty of the Amber Lamps, created in late 2010, have been produced and exhibited around the globe, at art galleries, museums and Martell's Château de Chanteloup in Cognac, France. MICHAEL CHEANG

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Go Figure

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 01:03 AM PDT

There are hundreds of reasons why we should visit the watercolour world of 30 artists.

GALERI Petronas' latest exhibition, Figure In Paint, serves a very specific purpose, says Mohammad Medan Abdullah, senior general manager of Petronas' Group Corporate Affairs. As he explained during its launch, "This exhibition is a vehicle for us to develop a deeper interest in the use of watercolour."

Malaysian artists in particular have made great strides with the medium. Well-known watercolourist and former chairman of the Malaysian Watercolour Organisation, Dr Wong Seng-Tong, gave several examples of experts whose works are in demand and now command between eight and 14 times more than when the country's watercolour movement was in its infancy.

Figure In Paint poses a challenge to 30 local artists to push both themselves and the visiting public to examine the wider potential of watercolour.

The show is skillfully curated, and the first impression is strong, arousing interest and curiosity.

After reading at the entrance that you are about to see an exhibition of "30 large-scale works" which will negate idea that watercolour is solely for painting pretty landscapes, you find yourself facing a postcard-sized painting of a pretty landscape – a boat reflected on water.

It is absolutely lovely yet totally expected from the medium and unexpected from the show. And so Figure In Paint begins with a touch of humour, a wink and a point of comparison. This is what you expect to see, now see what is different.

Some of the guest artists are bolder than others. While there are some pieces that are so everyday watercolour that it feels like déjà vu, there are many among the group, however, whose works are positively splendid.

Only a couple of artists went so far as to break the convention of painting on surfaces other than canvas or paper. SabriIdrus' In Conversation looks back at you with large eyes painted on galvanised metal sheets.

Ahmad Shukri Mohamed's Top Of The World is a touching collection of framed boy's school shirts. They are the generic white shirts that millions of children wear, which can only be told apart one from another if they happen to have the student's name or school crest ironed on.

Ahmad's shirts are painted with images a young boy might draw himself – animals, trees, mountains and cities, and give the impersonal uniform a personality. You feel that you know the boy. Going deeper than the plain cloth that identifies him as a school kid, you now have a window into his imagination.

If this piece does for you what it has for me, you will start looking at other uniforms – school, factory, police, soldier, nurse, waitress – and wonder what images are unrevealed.

Paper is the most common surface here, though sometimes this, too, is played with and folded, cut or layered. Haslin Ismail's The Red Tree is a sculpture of cut paper, forming a house covered in paper barbed wire. Besides the shadows cast by the paper, the only colour is where the paper has been painted solid red.

Shadows also add dimension to Tang Yeok Khang's Golden Globe and Paper Tree, in which a girl seems to be soaring up into branches which fold like fingers over her. Cut and mounted between acrylic sheets, the painted piece casts sharp shadows on the wall behind it.

Khairul Azwan was present at the opening and reminded me that an artist is never truly finished with a piece of work – that pieces and ideas can germinate for years in his brain and push their way out to the surface when they are good and ready.

For his piece, Tembak Keliling, Khairul used figure studies from years ago.

"Watercolour is an art student's medium for study," he says. "To study form, shape, light and shadow, and especially colour theory."

Khairul has painted a policeman, legs apart and weapon held before him, from numerous angles. He has layered these figures on top of one another to make them appear to be standing in a circle, facing outwards.

The rest of the wall is a shower of bullets which, interestingly are flying towards the policemen rather than from their raised weapons.

This small twist changes the story of the work entirely. The armed cops look vulnerable and worryingly unalarmed by the hail of lead speeding towards them.

It always shows when an artist feels free in his or her work. Three pieces of fantasy at the exhibition are positively magnetic.

Khairul Azmir Shoib is a welcome addition to the show. Painting directly on the wall, his fairytale figures in All Of A Sudden I Missed Everyone whisk you into a world you love visiting.

Sabahan artist Donald Abraham's Otak Merajuk inhabits an alcove worth entering. As you get closer to the beheaded body on the far wall, aspects pop out as if in 3-D, such as the doorway in the neck, or a head peeking out from a hole in the forearm. Bring someone with you because the multiple tattoos are simply aching to be discussed.

There is a second alcove and this is where, given a chance, I would live. It is lined with miniature paintings each carrying a tiny "J", for artist Jeganathan Ramachandram. There are 109 of these paintings, which I had expected to glance at, get a sense of and move on.

Instead, each one of them captivate me. I moved slowly, absorbed by every piece and as content as when flipping the pages of an extraordinarily beautiful picture book.

And when I came to the last painting, I started again, completing three slow circuits before I could tear myself away. (I did return to them several times after that.) Each piece tells its own story.

If you catch up with Jeganathan, he will tell you what lies behind each work. But you'll be just as happy letting the individual pieces release your imagination and pique your curiousity. What are the animals? Why the egg? Why the flag?

Thanks to works like his Mindscreen, there are not only 30 reasons to visit Figure In Paint; there are hundreds.

Figure In Paint – Contemporary Watercolour is on till Aug 28 at Galeri Petronas, Tower 1, KLCC. Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm. Admission is free. Call 03-2331 7770 for information.

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