Isnin, 25 Julai 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

NEWSMAKER - Strauss-Kahn's accuser: Schemer or immigrant survivor?

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 08:57 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - First she was portrayed as a model of virtue who was violated by a rich and powerful man.

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. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files)

Then she was presented as a liar, a schemer associated with criminals in the New York underworld, who may have taken down the next president of France for her own financial gain.

The world remains divided on the hotel maid who accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of assaulting her in a New York hotel on May 14, an explosive case which like many sex cases comes down to whose account of the incident you believe.

Nafissatou Diallo, whose story had been told through prosecutors and defence lawyers, gave her own account to the media this weekend in a graphic interview with Newsweek and ABC, saying Strauss-Kahn behaved like a "crazy man."

It was the first time the widow with a teenage daughter, an immigrant from Guinea in West Africa, had spoken publicly since she alleged Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from the bathroom of his luxury suite and forced her to perform oral sex.

Defence lawyers insist any sex was consensual and called the interview an effort to extract money from Strauss-Kahn.

Diallo's lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, said she wanted people to know she is not a "shakedown artist or a prostitute." The illiterate daughter of a Muslim imam, she was working as a cleaner at the luxury Manhattan hotel.

"She is not a whore, she is a good mother," said Blake Diallo, the Senegalese manager of a Harlem restaurant she once frequented, who is not related to her. "She was a wonderful, caring, hard-working African woman."

To women's rights advocates she is a survivor who embodies the immigrant story of fleeing poverty and repression for a better life in America. They also lament how the accuser so easily becomes the accused.

Yet defenders and political supporters of Strauss-Kahn were also handed material they could eagerly latch on to.

Prosecutors hoping to jail Strauss-Kahn for up to 25 years were forced to report troubling information about Diallo's background. In order to win U.S. asylum she had lied about being gang-raped and she changed details of her story about what happened minutes after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn.

What's more, the woman appeared to be surrounded by shady characters. The revelations threw the case into disarray, providing Strauss-Kahn's defence lawyers with ammunition to undermine her credibility should the case ever reach trial.


According to lawyers for the accuser, prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney's office said they had found a recorded telephone conversation after the incident between her and a man detained in an Arizona jail in which she said "words to the effect" that "this guy has a lot of money. I know what I am doing."

The precise context of the conversation has been clouded by the difficulties of interpretation of a dialect of Fulani, but they were seen as seriously undermining the prosecution case.

Despite speculation that he might drop the charges, New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance has yet to do so, indicating prosecutors may believe parts of both narratives -- that she was a victim but she also has inconvenient facts in her background.

"Poor immigrants of violence often do things to survive ... and are sometimes drawn into criminal or unsavoury activity and often end up with really poor quality immigration assistance," said Dorchen Leidholdt, director of the battered women's services group that has provided services to the accuser.

"She's typical of so many of the very vulnerable immigrant women in our city."

Despite Guinea's ample natural resources, decades of misrule mean its 10 million residents mostly make do on average incomes of around $3 a day.

One of six brothers and sisters, Diallo's early life was one of limited horizons and expectations. Her home village in the remote Labe region, a hard day's drive north of Conakry, still has no water, electricity or phone lines. It is reached only after a 30-minute scramble on foot through thick forest.

Her family is of Fula ethnicity, like 40 percent of the population. Her late father was known as a devoted and learned Muslim. Like many West Africans, her family practiced the Tidjiane version of Sunni Islam.

"Here, the girls get married at 16 and the boys at 20. We don't know anything about that other way of life," her older brother Mamoudou told Reuters, referring to the Western lifestyle his sister found in New York.

Her own arranged marriage to a distant cousin ended with the death of her husband -- the cause is unclear -- after which she left her home village in the mid-1990s, travelling to the capital to become a seamstress. Her ties with her family back in the Labe region then appeared to weaken.

Later, in her asylum application, prosecutors said she fabricated and embellished her story, claiming she and her husband were persecuted and harassed by the Guinean regime and her husband was jailed, tortured, deprived of medical treatment and eventually died as a result.

After the encounter with Strauss-Kahn, she told prosecutors she had fabricated the statement with the help of an advisor. Kenneth Thompson, a lawyer representing her, said she volunteered to prosecutors she had lied on her asylum application due to that bad advice.


Diallo was a victim of genital mutilation, and she wanted to avoid the same fate for her daughter, Thompson said. Those facts would have been enough to win asylum without the need to invent a story, he said.

"We've seen ... clients are encouraged to make misrepresentations, even when the true story might be the very strong basis for an immigration claim," Leidholdt said.

Prosecutors said Diallo was the victim of a rape in Guinea, though not a gang-rape as related in her asylum application.

Within days of Strauss-Kahn's arrest, his advisers worked to collect information about Diallo's history.

They quickly turned up links with people involved in criminal activities, but it was Manhattan prosecutors who uncovered some of the most damaging information on Diallo, according to William Taylor, one of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers.

The man she spoke with in the Arizona jail had been arrested for bartering counterfeit designer clothes for marijuana, the New York Times reported.

In addition, the Times said, investigators had found bank records showing deposits of thousands of dollars into her bank account, transferred there from a variety of U.S. states by the jailed man.

Taylor said those details came from the District Attorney's office and their investigators.

Diallo told Newsweek magazine the man did indeed transfer the money into her account, but she was never told about it and she never spent any of the cash.

Once she moved to New York, she became a regular at Cafe 2115 on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, a magnet for the many French-speaking West Africans who live in Harlem, the largely black section of upper Manhattan.

"These stories of drugs and laundering money, I don't know her that way. She is not that kind of person," the restaurateur Diallo said.

She worked at the African American Restaurant Marayway, a Gambian eatery in the Bronx, where she worked serving Gambian food before landing a job at the luxury Sofitel hotel.

Immigrant opinions of the woman are sharply mixed.

"Why would a big man who could be president of France want to spoil his chances by doing such a thing?" asked Ouma Mahamadou, 23, a Nigerian patron of Cafe 2115. "It doesn't make any sense to me, so she must be lying."

(Additional reporting by Paula Rogo and Noeleen Walder in New York, Mark Hosenball in London, and Saliou Samb in Conakry, editing by Mark Egan and Sandra Maler)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Japan PM says early poll against public feeling - Jiji

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 07:56 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Unpopular Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday denied speculation that he might call an early election for parliament's powerful lower house, a move that would risk sparking a revolt inside his own Democratic Party.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends a parliament session in Tokyo July 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)

Kan, whose support rating has sunk to 17.1 percent, also told a parliamentary committee that the next lower house election should be held in the summer of 2013, when a poll for the upper chamber is also scheduled, Jiji news agency reported.

"To speak of a snap election is against public sentiment," Jiji quoted Kan as saying.

Kan, under fire for his handling of the triple calamities of an massive earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear disaster in March, survived a non-confidence vote last month by pledging to hand over power to his party's younger generation.

But he has been vague about the timing.

Expectations are growing that Kan-- already Japan's fifth premier in as many years -- will step down in August after the passage of key legislation including a bill to allow fresh borrowing to help fund a $1 trillion budget for the year from April.

Earlier this month, Kan listed the passage of the deficit-funding bill, an emergency budget approved on Monday and a law promoting renewable energy as conditions for his resignation. But doubts remain about whether he will quit without intense pressure from his own party.

"I think Kan would like to say as prime minister beyond this parliament session (which ends on August 31) but the chances are approaching zero and if he doesn't leave willingly, I think some key cabinet members will resign and he'll be forced to go," said Columbia University professor Gerry Curtis.

Curtis also said an early election was unlikely given strong resistance to the move inside the Democratic Party, which has a huge majority in the lower house now but would likely lose seats heavily if a vote were held soon.

The Democrats swept to power in 2009 with promises of change, ending more than 50 years of almost non-stop rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party. But they have since seen their public support dwindle due to policy flip-flops, perceived bungling of diplomatic disputes and criticism of the government's handling of the March disasters.

No lower house election need be held until summer 2013.

(Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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China launches 2-month safety campaign after deadly train crash

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 07:55 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's rail minister has ordered a two-month safety check on railway operations and apologised for Saturday's deadly train crash that killed 39 people, state media reported on Tuesday.

It was the latest effort to assuage public anger after Internet users flooded websites and microblogs with comments following the crash in eastern China's Zhejiang province, the country's deadliest rail accident since 2008.

Workers and rescuers look on as excavators dig through the wreckage after a high speed train crashed into a stalled train in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province July 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

Even before the investigation into the cause of the crash was complete, Beijing on Sunday sacked three middle-level railway officials.

Subsequent efforts by the propaganda department to bar Chinese media from questioning official accounts of the accident fueled even more anger and suspicion.

The People's Daily quoted Sheng Guangzu, Minister of Railways, as saying a range of railway officials were directed to work on front-line operations during the next two months and to learn from the accident.

He said the safety campaign will extend through the end of September and will focus on high-speed rail and passenger trains, such as implementing maintenance standards and reinforcing checks on power connections to pre-empt outages.

Special attention would also go to prevent accidents caused by flooding and inclement weather, the minister said.

The ministry is still investigating the cause of the accident. However, state media has said a bullet train hit another express that lost power following a lightning strike, adding that the power failure knocked out an electronic safety system designed to alert conductors about stalled locomotives on the line.

The accident has raised concerns about the safety of the country's high-profile and fast-growing rail network and threatens to undermine its plans to export high-speed train technology.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Ken Wills and Jonathan Thatcher)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Obama appeals for debt-limit compromise

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 06:42 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama on Monday night criticized a newly minted Republican plan to avert an unprecedented government default and said congressional leaders must produce a compromise that can reach his desk before the Aug. 2 deadline.

"The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn't vote for a dysfunctional government," the president said in a hastily arranged prime-time televised speech. He appealed to the public to contact lawmakers and demand "a balanced approach" to reducing federal deficits.

Obama stepped to the microphones a few hours after first Republicans, then Democrats drafted rival fallback legislation Monday to avert a potentially devastating government default in little more than a week.

Obama said the approach unveiled earlier in the day by House Speaker John Boehner would raise the nation's debt limit only long enough to push off the threat of default for six months. "In other words, it doesn't solve the problem," he said.

The president had scarcely completed his remarks when Boehner made an extraordinary rebuttal carried live on the nation's networks.

"The president has often said we need a 'balanced' approach, which in Washington means we spend more, you pay more," the Ohio Republican said, speaking from a room just off the House floor.

"The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen."

Directly challenging the president, Boehner said there "is no stalemate in Congress."

He said the Republicans' newest legislation would clear the House, could clear the Senate and then would be sent to Obama for his signature.

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ING sells its Latin American insurance business US$3.76bil

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 05:24 PM PDT

AMSTERDAM (AP) - ING Groep NV says it has agreed to sell most of its Latin American businesses to Colombia's Gruposura for 2.615 billion ($3.76 billion) in cash, the latest in a spate of disposals.

ING says that on top of the deal price, Gruposura will take on 65 million in debt for the businesses, which include ING's insurance, investment management and pension management activities. The deal does not include ING's 36 percent stake in Brazilian insurer Sul America SA.

ING has been selling operations to prepare for its European Union Commission-mandated split into one company for insurance and another for banking, after it was bailed out by the Dutch state during the 2008 financial crisis.

It still owes 3 billion of the original 10 billion in support it received, and another 1.5 billion in penalties, with plans to pay back the balance in full by May 2012.

SNS Securities analyst Lemer Salah said the sale price was "attractive," and he expected the Brazilian stake would also be sold soon. He repeated a Buy rating on ING shares.

ING shares were down 1.3 percent to 7.982 in Amsterdam.

Earlier this month ING sold its European auto leasing business to BMW for 637 million, and in June it sold its U.S. online banking service to Capital One Financial Corp. for around $9 billion in cash and shares. ING still plans to spin off its U.S. and its European and Asian insurance businesses with initial public offerings, but has yet to set a date.

The Gruposura deal should close by year-end pending regulatory approval and ING said Monday it expects to book a 1 billion gain.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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Dow Chemical, Saudi Aramco agree on US$20bil joint venture

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 05:23 PM PDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Dow Chemical Co. and the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. pushed forward Monday with plans to build a US$20 billion chemical complex in the desert kingdom that they say will rank among the world's biggest.

The decision by both companies' boards to create a new joint venture, dubbed the Sadara Chemical Co., formalizes a project that has been in the works since 2007. It promises to create the largest integrated chemical facility ever built in one go.

The complex will be located in Jubail Industrial City, which sits about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of the eastern Saudi city of Dammam. It will include 26 manufacturing units producing chemical products and plastics for use in the energy, transportation, infrastructure and consumer products industries.

"This premier partnership is the right economic ownership model with the right partner," Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew N. Liveris said in a statement announcing the joint venture Monday.

Once completed in the second half of this decade, the facility will have the capacity to churn out 3.3 million tons (3 million metric tons) of chemical products annually for use in everything from car parts to food packages. The companies hope to target fast-growing emerging markets such as China, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa.

Midland, Michigan-based Dow stands to gain from access to Saudi Arabia's relatively cheap-to-produce hydrocarbons, which will be used to make the chemicals Sadara produces.

Saudi Aramco, as the oil company is known, is owned by the kingdom's government. It manages the OPEC kingpin's vast oil reserves, which it estimates at just over 260 billion barrels, and the world's fourth-largest supplies of natural gas.

Setting up the Sadara venture will cost $20 billion, the companies say. Dow and Saudi Aramco will have equal stakes in the venture, with additional funding being provided by export credit agencies and financial institutions.

A portion of the company will be sold to shareholders through an initial public offering in Saudi Arabia in 2013 or 2014, said Bill Weideman, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Initial production is expected to begin in 2015. The plant should be finished the following year.

The companies hope it will generate $10 billion in revenue annually and generate thousands of jobs within a few years of opening. It will also expand Saudi Arabia's industrial base, helping offset the kingdom's longtime reliance on fossil-fuel production.

"This enterprise will play a key role in the kingdom's industrial and economic diversification while ... supporting Saudi Arabia's ambition to be a magnet for downstream manufacturing investments that add significant value to the kingdom's hydrocarbon resources," said Khalid al-Falih, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Ramos, Junqueira into 2nd round at Croatia Open

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 06:31 PM PDT

Published: Tuesday July 26, 2011 MYT 9:32:00 AM

UMAG, Croatia (AP): Albert Ramos of Spain beat eighth-seeded Ivan Dodig 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in the first round of the Croatia Open on Monday.

Dodig appeared unable to move freely on court during the third set after the Croat complained of an ankle injury.

Diego Junqueira of Argentina defeated another Croat, Antonio Veic going down 6-4, 7-5.

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London Olympics helping 12M youngsters globally

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 06:25 PM PDT

LONDON (AP): Far from London, the 2012 Olympics are helping to transform and save lives.

From Bangladesh to Zambia, London's international legacy program has invested 38 million pounds ($62 million) in 17 countries and hit its target a year early to involve 12 million youngsters in sport globally.

Noor, an 18-year-old girl from Bangladesh, is one of them, receiving lessons to become a swimming teacher in a country where four children on average die every hour from drowning.

Brought to London to be part of celebrations to mark a year until the Olympics, Noor, whose full name was not given, recounted how her training has already saved at least one life.

"A girl about 5 years old was drowning, and her parents took her out of the water and tried to save her in a traditional way by putting some ashes in her mouth," Noor said through a translator. "I gave it five minutes and said if nothing happens I will do it my way. I took her and tried to implement some of the (resuscitation) techniques I had learnt from the program, pushing the chest, and after some time she began to breathe."

As a result of her training, Noor feels more empowered in her tiny village of Makura in Rangpur.

"My father is a rickshaw puller and the only earning member of my family," she said, while overlooking London's 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium. "Through this I tried to prove that a girl can also be an active member of her family. These activities help me develop my leadership.

"This helps me to speak up for other girls in my village, to make sure their voices are heard."

London's Olympic team has already raised another 6 million pounds ($10 million) from the public and private sector to invest in another three countries before the Olympics start next July.

"This shows we can take the world's greatest sporting event and use it for the benefit of other countries other than ourselves," Britain's Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson said. "This direct intervention through sport is saving people's lives."

The program, called International Inspiration, will continue in some of the 20 countries for two years after the Olympics, with organizers expecting the 2016 Rio Games team to adopt a similar project.

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Carl Lewis still amazed by Bolt's Olympic show

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 06:24 PM PDT

DENVER (AP): No use asking Carl Lewis to make bold predictions about what Usain Bolt might do at the next Olympics. The nine-time gold medalist is still having trouble processing what the Jamaican sprinter did at the last one.

"A lot of people's breath has been taken away," Lewis told The Associated Press on Monday. "I'm still coming to grips with that."

As to the question of who in America might challenge Bolt in London next year - Lewis takes the vaguely optimistic view.

"My main focus is saying, 'Hey, we always have to think someone will come up,"' Lewis said.

Even 15 years after leaving the sport, Lewis remains America's iconic figure in a track world that grew increasingly troubled after his departure.

By setting the 100-meter record three times in the span of 15 months in 2008 and 2009 - lowering it from 9.74 seconds to 9.58 - Bolt has redefined the sport's landscape.

"Really kind of bizarre," Lewis described the rapid lowering of the world record. "It's hard to follow what's going on. Kind of crazy the way the sport's become."

Instead of focusing on that, Lewis is busy running for the state legislature in New Jersey, where his candidacy is being challenged in the courts because of the state's four-year residency requirement. He keeps his hand in track, mainly trying to influence the younger side of the sport.

He's working for the Hershey's Track and Field Games, a 34-year-old program that draws millions of kids into track and field. The North American Final meet takes place Aug. 6 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

"It's why I deal with youth - there are no issues, no drama," he said. "All the drama is whether you win or not, and 10 minutes later, whether you did or not, you go get your chocolate."

If only things were that simple at the elite level.

In the aftermath of the 2008 Olympics, in which the Americans won only 23 medals, Lewis was asked to be part of a task force that explored what went wrong.

The Project 30 report - named as such because of a goal set by former USA Track and Field CEO Doug Logan to win 30 medals at the London Olympics - identified a number of structural flaws inside the team.

With the Olympics starting a year from Wednesday, Lewis isn't completely convinced all the issues have been straightened out.

"The reality is that we're talking about 30 medals and we still haven't figured out how to pass the baton" in relays, he said. "The last two championships, the men have not passed the baton. That's a huge problem. We had two gold medals that were guaranteed all the time and now we can't get a medal, period."

Faulty passes cost the men medals in the 400-meter relay at both the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 worlds. The women dropped the baton in 2008 and didn't finish in 2009 when Muna Lee pulled up with a hamstring injury.

USATF is making changes this year, requiring relay sprinters to participate in three training camps and at least two races in the lead-up to world championships. How the Americans fare in South Korea next month will play a big role in shaping the strategy for the Olympics next year.

Absent from this year's team, however, is Tyson Gay, who has been battling hip injuries all year and has shut things down for 2011 while he rehabilitates from surgery in hopes of being at full health for the Olympic year.

Along with Justin Gatlin, on the comeback after a four-year doping suspension, and Walter Dix, this year's American champion in the 100 and 200 meters, Gay is still viewed as one of the top U.S. threats to Bolt.

"But the last two or three years, he's been injured every year," Lewis said. "Hamstring injuries, you can recover from that. But now it's a hip. When you start getting structural injuries, those are things you really have to worry about."

But Lewis doesn't worry about it all that much.

As one of America's most decorated Olympic stars, he could play the role of the ubiquitous elder-statesman at track meets around the world. While hardly invisible on the track scene, he has other interests - most notably right now, politics.

In a race for a seat in the New Jersey Legislature, Lewis was unopposed in the Democratic primary, where his name was placed on the ballot after it was disqualified by the lieutenant governor, a Republican, but later reinstated by a judge. The matter is now up to the federal courts.

"I'm staying with the same ideas when I ran in sports," Lewis said. "I'm not tearing anyone down. I'm letting people know what I believe in, what I think. My focus is for them to vote for me, and not against my opponent."

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Talk on Penang and globalisation

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 05:41 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: A lecture on Penang's role in the globalised world will be held at the Wawasan Open University main campus in Penang on Thursday.

The two hour lecture by Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram will start at 4pm.

His talk, titled "Penang and Globalisation", will address the present and future of Penang in the fast changing world economy.

Prof Jomo, who is better known as KS Jomo, has been Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs since January 2005.

For more information, call Daniel Lim at 04-2283 306 or e-mail

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Hisham: Swap pact aimed at curbing human trafficking

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 05:40 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Australia have inked a landmark agreement on the transfer and resettlement of asylum seekers, aimed at stopping human trafficking syndicates from profiting from human misery.

The historic deal the first in the world will see 4,000 refugees in Malaysia sent to Australia while 800 people from that country will be resettled here in the next four years.

Australia is expected to fork out A$292mil (RM940mil) for the programme.

Although the exact date for the exchange has not been fixed, the first batch of transfers is expected to be this year.

The agreement was signed by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Australia's Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen here yesterday.

Both ministers said the cooperation reflected their countries' commitment to solve human trafficking and "other issues that come with it", such as terrorism, money laundering, and arms and drugs smuggling.

Hishammuddin said both countries wanted to send a clear message to syndicates not to treat them as a "haven to make profit from innocent, defenceless people".

"This agreement is a mechanism to stop this vile trade that is a form of modern day slavery.

"By working closely with the Australian Government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), we are able to develop an agreement that does just that while looking after the interests of Malaysia, Australia and - above all - the immigrants," he said after the signing ceremony.

Thanking UNHCR and IOM, which would monitor and safeguard standards of treatment in Malaysia, Hishammuddin said those who came under the deal would be allowed to work and have access to education and health.

"The best way to prove our commitment is through the operational side later. Judge us by the results," he said, adding that the 800 sent here would be screened to ensure that they were not on the terrorist and wanted lists, and not illegals.

Describing the move as innovative and bold, Bowen thanked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for his leadership in seeing the agreement through.

"As Immigration Minister, I hope not to get another phone call about people and children as young as two months old having drowned trying to come to Australia," he said.

Oversight and advisory committees would also provide advice to both governments on day-to-day management of the arrangement and the welfare of those involved, added Bowen.

Related Story:
NGO: Malaysia being used as dumping ground

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NGO: Malaysia being used as dumping ground

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 05:40 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) not to endorse the refugee swap agreement between Australia and Malaysia.

Australia is just using Malaysia as a dumping ground for the boat people it does not want, said HRW's Asia Division deputy director Phil Robertson.

He said Australia was walking away from its commitment to follow the 1951 Refugees Convention in making such an agreement with a country that is not a cosignatory.

"For Malaysia, this is a money talks' kind of deal, and for Australia, it's a desperate move by a government with falling poll numbers seeking political traction on the backs of vulnerable people seeking refuge," he said.

Robertson said endorsing the agreement would be the worst type of precedent.

"We're concerned it could start a wider erosion of protection for refugees throughout the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

In a related development, about 20 people protested against the signing of the deal outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

The demonstration, which was organised by a few human rights NGOs at noon yesterday, saw people holding up signs and banners protesting against the deal as it was being signed inside the hotel.

PKR vice-president N. Surendran said the deal was against human rights and all recognised principles of justice.

"It is a disgrace for Malaysia and Australia who are treating the refugees like animals," said Surendran.

He said the promises made by both governments on making sure there is adequate protection and welfare was nothing more than an "empty political phrase".

Related Story:
Hisham: Swap pact aimed at curbing human trafficking

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Return of the action star

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 03:41 AM PDT

Veteran kung fu star Jimmy Wang Yu returns to acting after a 17-year hiatus.

IN the movies, Jimmy Wang Yu, even with one arm cut off, was a force to be reckoned with.

He leapt to superstardom with Chang Cheh's The One-Armed Swordsman in 1967 and dominated the Hong Kong box office for the next three years with martial arts flicks.

Now, making a big-screen comeback in director Peter Chan Ho Sun's Wu Xia 17 years after he last acted, he plays a fearsome shadowy figure called The Master.

In life, there appears to be something indomitable about the 68-year-old Jiangsu-born actor as well.

Not long after he attended the Cannes Film Festival in May for the first time as Wu Xia was being screened out of competition, he was felled by a stroke. He reportedly lost strength on the left side of his body and even his speech was affected.

Speaking over the telephone recently from Taiwan where he is living, Wang sounds brisk and energetic. He says, perhaps with the slightest hint of a slur: "I can walk, climb the stairs and drive. At first, my tongue was swollen but since you can understand me now, it means I'm doing better."

In contrast to his menacing turn in Wu Xia, Wang is affable and polite, asking how he should address this reporter. He is now undergoing physiotherapy, and does hand and leg exercises every day and some light weight-lifting. The doctor had recommended doing 200 lifts but Wang tries for "600 to 1,000".

His quick recovery is perhaps a combination of having a strong will and being relatively fit in the first place.

Over the decades, he has kept up a regimen which includes exercising for 30 minutes every morning, such as running, and doing 100 sit-ups after waking and before going to bed.

During his convalescence, Chan visited him.

Wang says: "He told me not to worry about doing publicity for the film and that my health was more important. But as actors, that's part of our job. As long as I can walk and climb stairs, it's not a problem for me to accommodate press interviews."

One imagines that it would have been difficult for Wang to return to acting after a 17-year absence from the movies, but he says: "Not at all. I was happy to return to acting. It was not that I had stopped acting, it was just that no one came knocking."

The last film he did was The Beheaded 1000 (1994).

More than that, given the plum role and the director attached to the project – "I've seen more than 90% of his films" – Wang, who is a businessman, offered to sign on for Wu Xia for just a dollar.

He says: "When I was popular, I was the top-earning actor, so how do they decide what to pay me now? So I said: 'Just give me a red packet with one dollar.'"

Of course, he got "a lot more" than one dollar though Wang declined to reveal the exact amount.

Neither did he quibble over his villain role, the kind he used to defeat as a hero in his heyday. "It's not important whether the role is a hero or a villain but whether it gives you a chance to shine. It's all still acting."

In an action-filled movie like Wu Xia, a lot more than acting is required, not least an endless reserve of stamina. The final showdown between him and Yen probably made him thankful that he had been doing his sit-ups and running all these years.

He recalls: "We fought for a week. It was raining outside the hut, so we had to have two firetrucks hosing water down on us. The mud underfoot was about 30cm deep and people kept getting stuck in it."

The veteran deserves much praise not just for surviving the arduous shoot, but also for pulling his weight in one of the most thrilling kung fu scenes in a movie in recent memory.

Even more impressive is the fact that his screen nemesis is Yen, currently one of the top action stars in Asia, for whom he is all praise. "I've made so many films, his skills are the best. He lived up to his reputation as he's fast, accurate and deadly," says Wang.

Wang himself is no slouch as he was trained in karate and was also a swimming champion. In his old films, he executed as many of his own stunts as possible "out of respect for audiences and fans."

In his time, he was often compared to Bruce Lee who had his movie breakthrough with Fists Of Fury in 1971. But to the regret of martial arts fans everywhere, they never crossed paths on celluloid. If their paths had crossed, he adds, the question of who was superior would have depended on how a director made the film and how a scriptwriter wrote it.

Wang and Lee were alike in another respect: making the pages of tabloids.

Wang's first wife, actress Lin Tsui, was nine years older than him and their marriage crumbled in 1975 amid allegations of wife-beating. His second marriage, to air stewardess Wang Kai-chen, ended with him publicly humiliating her and her lover when he surprised them with a confrontation – with reporters and police in tow.

He hints at this when he says: "I was young and got into more trouble then and I constantly got into the society pages."

This, he says, was why his relationship with 1970s top romance star Lin Ching-hsia did not work out. He admits: "I was not worthy of her and we were together only for a very short time, about half a year. Congratulations to her for marrying so well."

Even more colourful than his love life were his connections to the secret societies and a murder charge, of which he was acquitted, in 1981.

Wang says: "Every society has a bright side and a dark side. I joined the gangs as lots of things were on the boundaries of the law at the time. Sometimes, even the law could not govern these affairs and it was left to the gangs to dispense justice."

Looking back now, he says resolutely: "I've never had any regrets. I only look forward, not backwards. You learn from your mistakes and improve."

What the future holds is the possibility of more films from him. He has had verbal offers after making Wu Xia and says he would continue to act, depending on his health. "As an actor, I want to try all kinds of roles but I can't ignore what the audience wants. I would probably continue to focus on action films." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Wu Xia is playing in Malaysian cinemas.

Rise of the swordsman

> The One-Armed Swordsman (1967): Wang Yu played this titular role that launched him into superstardom. It was the first Hong Kong film to earn HK$1mil at the local box office and it was also the top-grossing film there in 1967.

> The Golden Swallow (1968): This Chang Cheh flick paired Wang with other top action stars Cheng Pei-pei and Lo Lieh. With a love triangle added to the wuxia plot, it became the top-grossing film in Hong Kong in 1968.

> Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman (1969): The sequel had Wang reprising his role as Fang Gang and was the top-grossing film in Hong Kong in 1969.

> The Chinese Boxer (1970): Wang wrote, directed and starred in this flick which pitted him against a Japanese karate expert. He broke his contract with Shaw Brothers after this film, the top-grossing movie in Hong Kong in 1970.

> Killer Meteors (1976): Wang is the Killer Weapon who stops a villain from terrorising a small town. The film stars a pre-Drunken Master (1978) Jackie Chan as the baddie.

> Shanghai 13 (1984): Wang's last film with Chang, the godfather of Hong Kong cinema, pits patriots against traitors in 1920s Shanghai. This is the precursor to Teddy Chan's Bodyguards And Assassins (2009).

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Diving into Wing Chun

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 03:07 PM PDT

China's Tian Liang goes from sportsman to funnyman in action comedy I Love Wing Chun.

FOR handsome Chinese Olympic diver-turned-actor Tian Liang, acting was a natural progression, and due to his sports background, action scenes were right up his alley.

As the hero in action comedy I Love Wing Chun, Tian inevitably had lots of fight scenes showcasing the said martial arts, made popular by Chinese icon Bruce Lee and his master Ip Man.

To ensure a realistic portrayal of kung fu action, Wing Chun master Guy Lai Ying Jau (one of the original disciples of Ip Man) was engaged as the martial arts action consultant on the movie set. Lai reportedly praised Tian on his physical prowess and commented that he was a fast learner.

So, was Wing Chun difficult to learn? "It was alright. Poses like the one you see in the movie posters are really quite easy. It took me just a minute to get it right," quipped Tian pointing to the movie poster.

"However, I've got to admit that the fight sequences are definitely more challenging. But I'm confident that I managed to do justice to Wing Chun in the movie," Tian, who is from Chongqing, offered in an interview held at Genting Highlands last Friday. Tian, with nine Hong Kong artistes and a bunch of local artistes, were at the resort to meet fans.

While the movie combines action and comedy, Tian conceded that his portrayal of a country boy mostly comprised action while the others provided the comedy. "Maybe I don't get to do much comedy in this movie, but in reality, I hope to present a more humorous character," he said, flashing his disarming smile.

Filming for the first time in Malaysia in places like Malacca and Klang. Tian was thankful for the warm reception from easy-going local artistes. While the action sequences did not pose much of a challenge to Tian, the Mandarin-speaking star admitted to being a bit lost among the Cantonese-speaking crowd on the movie set.

"When they spoke a bit slower, I could actually understand some of what was being said. Fortunately, I could refer to the Cantonese dialogue in the script to stay on top of things," Tian continued.

While I Love Wing Chun is not Tian's first movie, it is the strapping young man's first leading role and his first action movie.

Married with a three-year-old daughter, the 32-year-old had a cameo as a water deity in romantic comedy Fantastic Waterbabes (2010). He can also be seen in romantic tear-jerker A Beautiful Life, currently screening in local cinemas, in which he plays an autistic guy who falls for a pretty deaf-mute. He has also starred in a number of TV series in China: the fashion-themed Unbeatable, the costumed romance Cowherd And Weaving Maiden and military revolutionary Lei Feng.

After taking on various projects of the comedy and romance genre, Tian said he looks forward to more serious themes for his future projects and admitted to being partial to action.

"Variety will help boost my career as a performer. Also, action movies are really quite demanding and require some months of training before filming commences," added the former sportsman, who is familiar with long hours of training to perfect his routines.

In the movie, he plays Ah Wing, a naive young man brought up in the countryside by his kindly foster parents Uncle Chun (Yuen Wah) and Auntie Chun (Yuen Qiu), who teach him Wing Chun without him realising it.

It turns out that Ah Wing's father was friends with kung fu master Uncle Chun and the wealthy Datuk Ang (Natalis Chan). Just before the sickly old man passed away, he entrusted Ah Wing to his friends, bidding Uncle Chun to protect his son and Ang to support him financially.

When he turns 18, Ang sends for him and a young lawyer named Ng Hou Mun (Law Kwun Fung) is dispatched to fetch him. Assuming it would be a fun trip, the playful young man brings along a group of mischievous friends. Mayhem ensues when the entourage end up on Wing Chun Street, where things are not what they seem.

Filmed entirely here, I Love Wing Chun even transformed an especially colourful stretch of stores in Malacca into Wing Chun Street. For the curious, the three-sided Wing Chun mahjong table prop featured in the movie can be seen on display at three cinemas: TGV Kepong, TGV Cheras Selatan and Cathay Cineplexes e@Curve in the Klang Valley.

Directed by Lex Choi, the movie was initially a modest project that grew by leaps and bounds and got so much bigger than he expected as it gathered extended cameos and guest performances from countless Asian celebrities.

Joining Tian were Hong Kong actors like Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, Natalis Chan Pak Cheung, Law Kwun Fung, Elvina Kong, Nelson Cheung, Gill Mohinderpaul Singh (known as Kiu Bo Bo), Brian Burell, Lau Yee Tat and Matt Yeung Ming.

Local actors include Gan Mei Yan, Calvin Yee, Allen Tee, Zoee Tan, Shawn Lee, Amber Chia, Soo Wincci, Cindy Chen, Vinx Lim, Jeff Chin, Royce Tan, Vivian Tok, Phoebe Yap, Alan Yun and Lai Ming.

Even "US president Barack Obama" made an appearance in the movie as a skilled Wing Chun exponent played by Ilham Anas, the Obama look-alike from Jakarta, Indonesia.

I Love Wing Chun opens in local cinemas this Thursday.

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Scheming to get ahead in Perfect Rivals

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 03:06 PM PDT

Irene Ang and Ha Yu end up becoming Perfect Rivals in their first collaboration.

WHAT happens when two former lovers turn into bitter enemies? Why, they become Perfect Rivals, of course.

Inspired by an urban legend in Singapore about the rivalry of two bak gua (barbecued meat jerky) stores, Perfect Rivals is a romantic comedy about two feuding families who have operated their businesses next to each other for 28 years.

The perfect rivals – Chen Hao (Ha Yu) and Zhen Mei Mei (Irene Ang) – are constantly scheming to get ahead of each other in their bak gua business.

Chen is a traditional businessman who uses age-old methods to make his Hao Han bak gua. On the other hand, Zhen is a contemporary businesswoman who employs modern mass production methods to package and market her Mei Mei bak gua products.

Chen has two sons, Xiao Ma and Xiao Hu. Elder son Xiao Ma (Stanly Hsu) is a happy-go-lucky young man with the mentality of a kid and imagines he is Superman. The younger Xiao Hu (Josh Lai) is a ladies' man who works as a tour guide and spends half his time in a drunken stupor to numb the pain of losing his mother.

Zhen has two daughters, Zhen Zhen and Yuan Yuan. Elder daughter Zhen Zhen (Pamelyn Chee) is an acid-tongued lass who has had every part of her body cosmetically altered. Younger daughter Yuan Yuan (Mindee Ong) is a playful girl who has just returned from furthering her studies overseas.

Also part of the Zhen household is Charlie (Alvin Wong), a quirky fellow who practically worships the ground Zhen walks on and will do anything to protect her interests.

To win in the next bak gua competition, Zhen disguises Yuan Yuan as a boy named Teh See to spy on Chen and steal his secret recipe. But, Yuan Yuan falls for Xiao Hu the moment she sets eyes on him. And, so begins the cat-and-mouse game as the truth behind the rivalry unfolds.

Filmed in Penang last year, the movie was directed by Han Yew Kwang, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sam Loh and Ting Soo Yun. The Singaporean comedy is the first film from A.I. Pictures, a subsidiary of FLY Entertainment founded by Ang.

The movie also has the support of the Singapore Film Commission and has also received funding from the Media Development Authority under the International Film Fund.

The light-hearted-flick is chiefly in Mandarin with a bit of English and Chinese dialects like Cantonese and Hokkien and there are amusing cameos by Hong Kong's Michelle Yim, and Singapore's Marcus Chin and Alaric Tay.

In Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday to launch the movie were its main cast members: Hong Kong's Ha Yu, Singapore's Irene Ang, Mindee Ong and Pamelyn Chee, Taiwan's Stanly Hsu, and Malaysia's Josh Lai and Alvin Wong.

The main topics of discussion during the press conference revolved around the intimate scenes between the two couples – the mature couple Chen and Zhen as well as the young couple Xiao Hu and Teh See (Yuan Yuan in disguise).

Playing Phua Chu Kang's wife Rosie for more than 10 years, Ang revealed she never had to do any kissing scenes with Gurmit Singh. "In Phua Chu Kang, we'd just get behind the sofa and start casting out articles of clothing. But, for Perfect Rivals, the director declared that we had to do it for real," shared Ang, who revealed that both hurriedly got some chewing gum to freshen their breath.

The "kissing" scene in question saw them trying to hide a live mouse in their mouths and passing it to and fro to avoid being caught by a health inspector. When probed, the two revealed it was a genuine rodent, but Ang stressed: "No rats were harmed in the filming of Perfect Rivals!"

Even veteran TVB actor Ha Yu, 62, admitted that smooching scenes between a mature couple caught in a love-hate relationship was quite a challenge for him, as most viewers would much rather watch the young ones lock lips.

"Basically, the story is about love in all its forms as we deal with the different relationships in our lives. With the two lads, I feel they are like my sons as my own boys are not with me now.

"And as people say, daughters are a man's lovers in their past lives, so the relationship with the two lasses are special in their own way. The relationship with Irene, on the other hand, has to be dealt with kids' gloves as viewers may not be so comfortable with scenes of passion between a mature couple. We had to take a lot into consideration but I must say that Irene's lips are really soft!" Ha Yu continued cheekily.

Another stumbling block was the language. "It's the first time I'm filming entirely in Mandarin so I must apologise for my poor command of the language. There are so many words I don't even know how to read. I had to spend all night doing research and homework after shooting wrapped for the day. For me, Perfect Rivals was like taking a class in Mandarin!" lamented Ang, who is also the movie's executive producer.

"Initially, I thought I wouldn't look too bad as Ha Yu is from Hong Kong where they speak Cantonese. But, when we read the script together for the first time, I realised I was in trouble."

Little did she know that Ha Yu was born in China, specifically Guangzhou, and only moved to Hong Kong at age 16.

"I learnt my Mandarin while I was schooling in China. In Hong Kong, I hosted my first few shows in Mandarin before I moved on to Cantonese serials," clarified Ha Yu, who recently won best actor at TVB's 41st Anniversary Awards for his role in Moonlight Resonance.

The Hong Kong actor, on his part, kept fluffing his Hokkien lines which required more retakes than he had ever experienced in all his years of filming.

Perfect Rivals opens in local cinemas nationwide on Thursday.

Related Story:
Diving into Wing Chun

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Dreaming of Pablo

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 03:23 AM PDT

How a fantastical, award-winning children's book came into being.

PAM Munoz Ryan heard an intriguing story about one of the 20th century's greatest poets, Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda (1904-1973). It seems that in his youth, Neruda passed a gift to an unknown and unseen child through a hole in a fence. This story, told to Ryan in 2005, so moved the children's author that she began thinking of writing about Neruda's childhood.

The Dreamer was the result. It began as a picture book but grew into an illustrated novel that was finally published last year.

The young adult book was picked as an American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book earlier this year and then won Ryan the ALA's 2011 Pura Belpré Award, which is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work celebrates the Latino cultural experience.

The pictures in The Dreamer, by Peter Sis, have a fantastic and dream-like quality, depicting states of mind and flights of fancy rather than everyday situations. Like the novel's font, the illustrations are printed in green ink. Neruda saw green as the colour of hope (esperanza in Spanish) and, as he loved the natural world and collected objects he found in the forests, green seemed like the obvious and natural colour with which to give his story shape.

The following are excerpts from a recent e-mail interview with the 64-year-old Ryan.

In a recent survey of the 10 best poets in the world published in the New York Times, Neruda won the top spot. What is your reaction to this?

It doesn't surprise me. Neruda's work is evocative and approachable. Whether he wrote a love poem, a protest song, an epic history, or an ode to a sock, he had a remarkable ability to connect with the masses. When I read his work, I feel as if he has written only to me. Other readers often feel the same.

Has writing The Dreamer changed the way you read Neruda's poems?

I spent four years writing The Dreamer, so the background knowledge gave me perspective on his work. For instance, now when I read a poem he wrote about his father, I understand the emotion and the history behind their relationship.

In your research into the poet's childhood did you also find out about the seemingly contradictory man he became? For example, although he writes with affection about children, he was known to be quite a distant and neglectful father. How did knowing this about Neruda affect, if at all, your portrayal of him?

I read many biographies about him, as well as his memoirs, essays, and articles written about him. His adult life was sometimes glamorous, eccentric, and fraught with drama and darkness. I concentrated on his young life up to the age of 16. There were some childhood traits, like his collecting, that he continued through his lifetime.

So his adult behaviour corroborated aspects of his childhood. Knowing about his adult life did not affect how I wrote about his childhood, as much as understanding and researching his childhood helped me understand the man he became.

In your interview with you talk about how you and illustrator Peter Sis had a 'traditional' approach to creating The Dreamer. How does this work?

I wrote the manuscript and my editor and art director took the manuscript to the illustrator. Peter worked with the art director and my editor.

I was kept abreast of all of the art stages. I saw sketches and layouts and was able to weigh in with my thoughts to my editor.

We were all very respectful of author/editor/art director/illustrator protocol, which is common in publishing. Peter and I communicated directly only when he might have needed a clarification on something for which I might have already done the research.

Was there ever a time when writers of books about Latin American life and culture were expected to portray Latin Americans in a way that pandered to stereotypes?

I've been fortunate. By the time I began my writing career in the early 1990s, my editor and publisher at Scholastic embraced my manuscript ideas, some of which reflected my Latino heritage, some of which did not.

I've never had an editor who expected me to portray a Latino character, or a non-Latino character, one way or another. If there was a time when Latinos felt the pressure to pander to stereotypes, then my freedom is due to their diligence and courage. And I walk on a path they cleared for me.

Tell us about your latest projects.

I have a picture book out this year called Tony Baloney (illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham), about a macaroni penguin who is smack in the middle of the brood, between Bothersome Big Sister Baloney and the Bothersome Babies Baloney. As the only boy sandwiched between too many sisters, Tony Baloney does not love trouble – but trouble loves him! In addition, I have two other novels in the works.

It seems that every other book these days is being turned into a movie – how about The Dreamer?

I would love for any of my books to be a movie someday, and although several of my titles have been optioned over the years, nothing has been developed as yet.

The Dreamer is on sale at major bookstores nationwide.

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John’s day job

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 03:22 AM PDT

An author of award-winning literary novels improves his craft by writing thrillers.

IRISH author John Banville has been lauded as one of the greatest literary stylists of his generation but his recent kick as a crime writer, churning out a murder mystery every year, has him giddy with excitement.

"I am in my 60s with a new lease on life. It's fun," Banville said in an interview to promote the recently released A Death In Summer, written under Banville's pen name Benjamin Black.

The book finds dour, bumbling pathologist Garret Quirke trying to get to the bottom of the apparent suicide of a Dublin newspaper owner. Banville tells readers, only partly in jest, to expect an "absolute masterpiece of crime fiction".

The story unfolds in 1950s Dublin, the time of Banville's childhood when he thought the Irish capital was an exotic place – a setting he says he is still transported to in his mind every time he smells the whiff of diesel from a passing bus.

In his latest page-turner – the fifth book written under the Black name in as many years – Quirke's assistant David Sinclair has an affair with his daughter Phoebe.

"There is a childish pleasure in it. It's like playing with toy soldiers," says Banville. "When I wake at four in the morning, instead of thinking about death, or sex, or my bank balance, I think, 'What will I do with Phoebe or Sinclair?'

"I am making up stories," Banville says. "This is the great pleasure of writing.... It's the making of yarns, which I was never interested in before."

Banville makes it sound like childish fun, but critics are smitten. Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times that "his Black persona has been such a success that he looks increasingly like the Superman to Mr Banville's more literary Clark Kent."

Explaining the difference between Banville's finely crafted fiction such as The Book Of Evidence or the Man Booker Prize-winner (in 2005) The Sea and his work as Black, Banville speaks in the third person and calls Banville an artist and Black a craftsman.

"Black was able to help Banville," he says, explaining that the Banville novel he just completed, Ancient Light, was improved by his crime fiction.

"Black has got used to doing plots and keeping all that balanced, and Banville has learned some of that from him," he says.

In Ancient Light, Banville revisits his novels Eclipse and Shroud. Narrator Alexander Cleave thinks about the suicide of his daughter Cass and a sexual affair he had as a teenager with a friend's mother in a small Irish town.

As Banville, he says, he writes with a fountain pen at a pace of a few hundred words each day, while as Black, he churns out more than 1,000 words daily on a computer.

As Black, Banville now has the unusual pleasure of outselling his own Banville books in some countries.

"This is partly why I started being Black – to give Banville a day job," he says.

Banville says he is turned off by graphic depictions of violence both in crime novels and in Hollywood movies. He derides the hugely popular Stieg Larsson (Millennium trilogy) novels as crude stories "written with the blunt end of a burnt stick".

Black's leading man Quirke will soon be on television, thanks to a planned series by the BBC of three 90-minute mysteries. And, Banville says, he is planning more crime books until he can conjure some redemption for Quirke.

"If I get to a point, five, six, seven books from now ... where Quirke is in some way redeemed, then I will probably stop," he says.

Meanwhile, he will keep eking out his Banville books in the hope of writing what he is striving for: the perfect novel.

"My books are better than anybody else's. They are just not good enough for me," he says with easy arrogance. "What any writer is after is perfection, but that is not available.

"I will never achieve perfection, so I will keep on and on and on and I will die with a pen in my hand and I will feel as I am dying, 'Now, maybe, I will go to a place where I can write the perfect one,'" he says, adding with a smile, "Fat chance!" – Reuters

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Look before you leap in stock investing

Posted: 24 Jul 2011 08:20 PM PDT

This is the last of a three-part series featuring extracts and information from Faces Of Fortune, a new book that 'reads' the faces of 20 of Asia's most prominent tycoons.

UNDERSTANDING why we behave the way we do has never been more important in business than now. Time and again, behaviourists have pointed out that, in a given situation, people continuously react in the same way.

Success in investments does not correlate with IQ, What is needed is the ability to control the impulses that often get people into trouble in investing.

Why? Because the stock market, with its allure of easy money and fast action, impels people into senseless mismanagement of their hard-earned money.

So how does one decide which stock or company to bet on?

In Faces Of Fortune, author Tee Lin Say uses mian xiang (face reading) to pick out 20 of Asia's most prominent tycoons, and then explain why investors should place money on their companies over the next 10 years.

Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, YTL Group

He recently told Malaysians to say "Yes" to YTL Communication Sdn Bhd's 4G wireless broadband service.

Who hasn't heard of Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, head honcho of the YTL Group of companies, who has his hand in businesses involving power, utilities, cement, construction, real estate, information technology and leisure?

The group has grown multi-fold from just a construction firm founded by his father, Yeoh Tiong Lay, some five decades ago.

Although Yeoh senior built up the company to a respected level, it wasn't until Francis (as he is popularly known) – the eldest of his seven children – introduced power and utilities to the stable that it began to draw investor interest.

So, among his seven listed companies, which one should we pay close attention to?

If you knew face reading, the answer is simple enough – YTL Land Bhd.

When it comes to gauging how many properties a person can amass in his lifetime, we always look at his Property Palace (located between the eyebrow and eye), together with the Wealth Palace (the nose).

Can you see how wide Francis' Property Palace is? He also has an extremely favourable Wealth Palace – it is long and bulbous, and the nostrils are not visible from the front.

His nose wings are also wide, indication of a strong ability to generate plenty of income, and not just from core channels. He clearly has the makings of a successful property developer.

Francis also has what is called "chicken beak ears" (commonly associated with thinkers) – the top part is much larger than the bottom. These ears show that he thrives in fields that involve technical details.

He is very careful and may often ask "unnecessary" questions or be unduly anxious about his work. But, at the end of the day, the results he produces tend towards perfection.

Francis is now 57, or 58 in Chinese years. Over the next few years, his age points will move to his mouth, which looks favourable. The size of his mouth corresponds with the scope of his influence and success.

So it really isn't just talk. He is likely to succeed in turning Sentul in Kuala Lumpur into something akin to New York's SoHo district!

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group

Last month, AirAsia Bhd ordered 200 new A320s worth some RM54.6bil – the largest airline order ever. An analyst says the move will help it become the second largest carrier in the world, after Southwest Airlines.

Are we surprised that AirAsia has inked this deal?

No! Based on the face of its flamboyant group chief executive officer, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, no one comes close to nudging him off his pole position.

Fernandes, who is also the founder of Tune Air Sdn Bhd, introduced the first no-frills airline to Malaysians using the tagline, "Now everyone can fly".

The former record company executive had to mortgage his house, dump in all his savings and rope in a few friends as investors, to set up AirAsia.

What is in his face that shows his enterprise?

First up, Fernandes' nose is long and broad, and his nose wings (which represent age point 49 and 50) are sturdy. This is assurance of stability in character and wealth.

A big nose denotes a person with a big ego, someone who is very sure of himself. Fernandes, who will be 48 in 2012, or 49 in Chinese years, is definitely ambitious and has an unwavering belief in his ideas – he had forged ahead with AirAsia even when everyone thought he would fail.

Character-wise, he is magnanimous and honourable. The Chinese would say he has "no poison in his heart".

In mian xiang, the main source of one's wealth is seen in the nose tip, while nose wings typically show one's ability to amass wealth through multiple streams. As Fernandes' nose wings are wide, he will flourish in his other ventures, although his core business will continue to make the most money.

You will notice that his eyes are small and long – they appear as two streaks of light peeping above his chubby cheeks.

Well, these eyes have it. They show that he is capable and determined – give him any task and he will complete it to the best of his ability. They also "speak" of his foresight when it comes to planning ahead.

Fernandes' eyes also reveal a touch of cunning. But this should not be viewed negatively; one could even say that this characteristic has helped him make AirAsia the best budget airline in the region.

Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Genting Group

The late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong took seven years to complete the construction of Genting Highlands Resort, which opened in 1971. Four decades on, the Genting Group has evolved into a multibillion ringgit gaming entity, with operations in Malaysia, Singapore, Britain and the United States.

Its latest project is a resort in Miami, which came after the company won the bid last August to build a video lottery facility at the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City.

At the helm of the Genting empire is Lim's second son, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay. What is it in the latter's face that shows the group will continue to flourish?

The answer clearly lies in Kok Thay's eyebrows. He has what is termed "double eyebrows", which are very rare. On a leader, they are an assuring sign that he will succeed in whatever he sets out to do.

Kok Thay will be 60 in 2012, or 61 in Chinese years. The age point for 61 is the centre of the lower lip, also known as the Cheng Jiang.

Kok Thay's position 61 is smooth, with no indentations or scars. Furthermore, it is complemented by a very wide mouth; that alone works in his favour. Furthermore, his lips are thick and have clear borders.

These physical attributes confirm what is already evident – he is influential and has the required skills to take his organisation to the next level.

His big mouth also indicates that by nature, he is energetic and ambitious, and sets high targets for himself. More importantly, he has the stamina and passion to drive his aspirations.

Anyone with such a large mouth would surely want to be in control. In Kok Thay's case, he is likely to succeed. We say this because he has an extremely strong chin, which is not only broad but protruding, and a very favourable Wealth Palace; his nostrils are covered and his nose tip dips downwards.

Thus, we are convinced that Genting's plans to become a much larger entity are rock solid.

Faces of Fortune: The 20 Tycoons To Bet On Over The Next 10 Years will be available at Joey Yap's 'Wealth & Destiny' seminar in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, and leading bookstores from August. Visit or call 03-2284 8080.

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