Selasa, 26 Julai 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Supernatural turn in Teen Wolf

Posted: 27 Jul 2011 05:03 AM PDT

Rejoice, Team Jacob. Here comes the werewolf version of Twilight.

THANKS to Twilight, anything that comes in the form of vampires or werewolves these days is likely to reek of opportunism.

First came the bloodsucking high school drama series, The Vampire Diaries, the raunchy True Blood and now we have Teen Wolf, which is really the werewolf version of Twilight. You read right, Team Jacob – werewolves could just be the new black.

Based loosely on Michael J. Fox's 1985 comedy of the same name, Teen Wolf begins when Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), a shy high school student, gets bitten by a mysterious creature while wandering in the woods after dark.

Overnight, the asthmatic lacrosse-playing outsider becomes incredibly adept at sports, develops super-hearing and for some reason, becomes irresistibly attractive to girls.

All of a sudden, life seems perfect for McCall, who has no clue what is going on and looks curiously complacent most of the time, until he discovers the price for his extraordinary gifts: one night he morphs into a deadly wolf-like creature, sprouting fangs and fur, and develops a lust to kill.

New girl in town

Yes, this is yet another story about a social outcast whose life takes a supernatural turn. Predictably, much of the show focuses on McCall as he grapples with his newfound abilities and as he struggles with his relationship with Allison Argent (Crystal Reed), the pretty new girl in town.

Luckily for McCall, he just happens to have a best friend-cum-sidekick in Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O'Brien) who has an inclination for wolf stories.

As he tries to lead a normal life, Stilinski (who, by the way, is just too adorable) helps him through his transformations, even at the risk of getting killed.

There aren't any vampires in the series (yet) but there is the mysterious Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin), the other werewolf in town who looks suspiciously like a sexier, hunkier, ripped version of Edward Cullen.

While I'm at it, even McCall's home looks a little like Bella Swan's in the Twilight films. Like her, he also lives with a single parent (his mum).

Really, with the exception of having supernatural powers and killer abs, emotional and lovesick McCall may well be the male version of Swan.

But know this, ladies. Posey's well-defined muscles on the show are all real.

"It takes a lot of hard work to look like that. I work out like a madman," said Posey in an earlier interview.

The 19-year-old, who has gained almost 40,000 followers on Twitter since the show's debut in the United States last month, works out with a personal trainer for about an hour everyday.

Speaking of which, the werewolves in the series don't transform fully into the furry, fearsome creatures we've all come to know.

They still retain a human form, making them look a lot more like Wolverine than actual werewolves.

There is also a cute little feud between McCall and his popular, better-looking lacrosse captain Jackson Whitmore (Colton Haynes).

Whitmore is deadly suspicious about McCall's recent displays of physical prowess and is hell-bent on finding out what his secret is no matter what it takes. Whitmore also looks like a blonde Ken.

As all high school dramas go, there is always the bitchy mean-girl type who everybody loves to hate.

Here, she is Lydia Martin (Holland Roden), Whitmore's seemingly shallow but extremely intelligent and sexy girlfriend who appears to have taken a fancy to McCall.

Ultimately, Teen Wolf comes across as yet another teenage fare but at least it doesn't pretend to be something more.

Complete with corny dialogue and high school stereotypes, there is little doubt that the show will appeal to Twilight's legion of screaming fan-girls.

Already the show has been renewed for a second season, as testament to its rising popularity.

Plus, if anything, Posey and company certainly make some very delectable eye-candy and that's enough to keep a lot of us tuning in for more.

Teen Wolf airs on AXN Beyond HD (Channel 720) on Sundays at 9pm.

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. charges Uzbek man with threatening Obama's life

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 09:40 PM PDT

ATLANTA (Reuters) - An Uzbek national illegally residing in the United States was charged on Tuesday with threatening the life of President Barack Obama and possessing unlawful firearms, U.S. officials said.

A federal grand jury in Birmingham, Alabama, indicted Ulugbek Kodirov, 21, on four counts of threatening Obama on four separate occasions this month, according to a statement by Joyce White Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

The statement gave no details of the alleged threats.

"Federal and local law enforcement effectively coordinated to investigate a threat, which resulted in the arrest of Kodirov, who was charged ... with repeatedly threatening to kill the President of the United States and with possessing grenades and an M15 machine gun," Vance said in a statement.

Kodirov was arrested on July 13 at a motel in Leeds, Alabama, after buying the gun from an undercover agent, said the statement, which was co-signed by other law enforcement authorities.

Kodirov came to the United States in 2009, but his student visa was revoked in April 2010 after he failed to enroll in school.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count of threatening Obama and 10 years on each of the weapons counts, the statement said.

(Writing by Matthew Bigg; Editing by Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Japan nuclear compensation bill passes key hurdle

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 09:40 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - A lower house committee of Japan's parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to help Tokyo Electric Power pay billions of dollars in compensation to those hurt by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, ensuring a law will soon be in place to guarantee the utility's survival and get aid to victims.

Workers are seen around the 2nd cesium adsorption systems which are to be installed to treat highly radioactive water pooled at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan, July 26, 2011. (REUTERS/Tokyo Electric Power Co/Handout)

The bill, now set for passage in a lower house plenary session as early as this week and to go into law soon thereafter, will establish a fund backed by taxpayer money and contributions from other utilities to handle compensation, which analysts have estimated could cost up to $130 billion.

But the bill, a product of more than a month of wrangling between ruling party and opposition lawmakers following the initial announcement of a draft in May, leaves several key issues unresolved.

Lawmakers agreed to a future review of the bailout scheme, including how costs would be shared among the government, Tokyo Electric and other utilities, as well as whether shareholders should be asked to shoulder some of the burden.

"Overall, it's a positive development. The passage of the bill is the biggest point to watch for Tokyo Electric's credit risk. It will help stem a worsening of its credit status," said Mana Nakazora, chief credit analyst at BNP Paribas Securities.

"But details remain unclear, including how much of a stake the government will take in Tokyo Electric, how to ensure the company's cash flow and how much other power utilities have to contribute to the fund."

The crisis at Tokyo Electric has destabilised Japan's entire $860 billion corporate bond market. The utility, commonly known as Tepco, is the biggest bond issuer accounting for 8 percent of the market.

Since the disaster, ratings agency Standard and Poor's has slashed Tepco's rating deep into junk territory. The company's stock price tumbled by as much as 90 percent at one point, forcing Dai-ichi Life and other shareholders to book special losses.

Rising expectations that the bill would pass triggered a sharp rebound in Tepco's stock over the past few weeks to a four-month high of 643 yen on Friday. Investors have since taken profits, knocking it back to 512 yen as of Tuesday's close.

It remains to be seen whether Tepco's lenders will be asked by the government to make concessions. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp and two other leading banks held about $27 billion in outstanding loans to Tepco as of the end of March.

"Under the scheme, creditor banks will not be asked to forgive debts, although there remains a possibility that they might be asked to ease some lending conditions," said Yoshinobu Yamada, senior analyst at Deutsche Securities.

"We expect Tokyo Electric to formulate a major restructuring plan about a month after the passage of the bill. As early as the beginning of September, the Tokyo Electric matter might not be a factor affecting bank shares anymore."

Graphic on nuclear plants:


A 9.0 magnitude earthquake and deadly tsunami on March 11 crippled Tepco's Fukushima atomic power plant, causing fuel meltdowns and radiation leaks in the world's worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.

The incident has forced about 80,000 people to evacuate from the area around the plant and severely affected sales of farm produce after radiation levels exceeding safety standards were detected in beef, vegetables and tea.

The compensation bill was drafted by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan but was revised following talks with the opposition to clearly establish the government's responsibility for compensation and dealing with the effects of the disaster.

But with Tepco still struggling to bring the plant's reactors under control, it is difficult to estimate how high the total compensation cost will climb.

The bill also fails to make clear how Tepco and other utilities would share the costs. It says the total annual amount of contributions and how it would be split among the operators would be decided by a steering committee in the future.

That adds to the uncertainty faced by Kansai Electric Power and other utilities, which are already struggling with higher fuel costs to make up for the loss of power from idled nuclear plants.

Utilities are now operating 16 out of 54 nuclear reactors that had been available before the March 11 earthquake and all of those could be shut down by next May if public concerns about safety continue to stall restarts of reactors taken offline for routine maintenance.

"Strong uncertainty remains over the government's nuclear policy. A large increase in fuel costs is inevitable if utilities try to replace nuclear power with thermal," said Hiroki Shibata, analyst at Standard & Poor's.

"It would be critical that they can pass it on to electricity bills but that has not been discussed yet. We have to carefully study the development but the situation is negative for utilities."

($1 = 78.365 Japanese Yen)

(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Yoko Kubota; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Nathan Layne)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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World Bank warns of economic slowdown if China fails to tackle chronic diseases

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 09:40 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - The World Bank on Tuesday urged China to step up efforts to fight chronic diseases, the main cause of death in the country, warning of rising health expenditure and an economic slowdown if rapid action is not taken.

A Chinese man scratches his nose as he wears a mask to ward off SARS in Beijing June 12, 2003. (REUTERS/Guang Niu/Files)

Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) -- such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes -- account for over 80 percent of all deaths in the world's most populous nation, the World Bank said in a report on non-communicable diseases in China.

The report warned that "a reduced ratio of healthy workers to sicker, older dependents will certainly increase the odds of a future economic slowdown and pose a significant social challenge" in the world's second-largest economy.

"The issue that should concern all of us is with the growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases, that will imply more people using expensive and costly hospital care for long periods of time," said Patricio Marquez, a World Bank lead health specialist and co-author of the report at a news conference in Beijing.

"The key issue facing society as a whole is how to control the escalation of healthcare costs," he said. "One could say that if unchecked, this would make the current reforms unsustainable."

China launched a $125 billion healthcare reform plan in 2009 to try and extend health insurance and basic health care to all of its people.

Out-of-pocket payments, which represent 37 percent of total health expenditure, will continue to rise, said Shiyong Wang, a World Bank senior health specialist and co-author of the report.

Richard Yeh, a healthcare analyst with Citigroup in Hong Kong, said the rising healthcare costs will have broader implications for the Chinese government, which is aiming to reduce the economy's dependence on export earnings.

"Part of the reason that people don't want to spend is because the healthcare system is not taking care of the entire healthcare bill for the people," he said.

"If there's no strong national healthcare supporting system, people will continue to have a high savings rate. That will definitely ... hold up national consumption."

The World Bank report said China's "healthcare system is not responding effectively" to tackle non-communicable diseases, which is why the country's deaths from those diseases are higher than other leading G20 countries.

For example, China's mortality rate for strokes is four to six times higher than that in Japan and the United States.

A rapidly ageing population and more sedentary lifestyles, with bad diets and lack of exercise, were also factors contributing to the increasing rates of the diseases, the report said.

The World Bank report said that the economic benefit of reducing cardiovascular diseases by one percent per year from 2010-2040 could generate more than $10.7 trillion, equivalent to 68 percent of China's real GDP in 2010.

The World Bank estimates that without action, China will lose $550 billion in national income between 2005 and 2015 due to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.


Fifty percent of the risk factors of non-communicable diseases can be prevented by the adoption of certain measures, which would cost the Chinese government $220 per capita per year, Marquez said.

One way was to increase taxes on tobacco to create "an economic disincentive for people to smoke", he said.

Excise taxes on cigarettes in China are less than 30 percent, far lower than Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, where they hover around 65-80 percent, he said.

China has the world's largest number of smokers, with more than 300 million smokers. It is also the world's largest cigarette producer and has embarked on years of half-hearted campaigns to stub out the habit in some cities.

China's health ministry said it will ban smoking at all indoor public venues from May.

Restricting access to alcohol, introducing taxes on unhealthy food and cutting salt in food would also prevent non-communicable diseases, the report said.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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FBM KLCI, Asian markets down in early trade

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 07:19 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI opened marginally lower in Wednesday's early trade, slipping 0.78 points or 0.05% to 1,560.99 a 9.40am as investors remained cautious, in light of the fact that a deal to avoid an impending US default had yet to be reached.

Among the losers on the local bourse was Press Metal Bhd which slipped 6 sen to RM2.18 and Tasek Corp Bhd which shed 8 sen to RM7.80.

Regional markets were down. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 0.57% to 10,040.40 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was flat at 22,571.18.

Shanghai's A index was down 0.77% to 2,682.20 while Taiwan's Taiex Index shed 0.02% to 8,792.79.

Seoul's Kospi Index dipped 0.29% to 2,162.46, with Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.43% to 3,172.81.

Nymex crude oil lost 26 cents to US$99.33 per barrel. Spot gold rose US$4.15 to US$1,623.45 per ounce. The ringgit was quoted at 2.94 to the US dollar.

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US consumer confidence rises in July

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 06:11 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Two years into the recovery, Americans' confidence in the economy continues its rollercoaster ride.

As their short-term outlook on jobs and income eased somewhat amid a mix of optimistic and bad economic news, U.S. consumers' confidence rose slightly to 59.5 in July, according to a survey released Tuesday by a private research group.

That's up from a revised 57.6 in June, which marked a seven-month low in the measure, but still well below the reading of 90 that signals a healthy economy on the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index. It hasn't approached that level since the recession began in December 2007.

Brian Reardon, a 29-year-old insurance consultant from New York, says there's a reason consumers aren't confident. He's been cutting back on spending because all the recent unemployment and housing data has been mixed, making him uneasy about the economy.

"One day its good news," he says, "and the next day you hear some company is downsizing."

Economists carefully monitor consumer confidence because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. But consumer confidence has changed like the wind during the economic recovery, fluctuating up and down as consumers react to the stock markets, corporate news and world events. And while confidence had rebounded by now during the last recession, which ended in 2001, it remains shaky two years into the current recovery.

Earlier in the year on the index, which measures how Americans feel about business conditions, the job market and the next six months, Americans were more optimistic that the economy was on track for a recovery. But consumer confidence has fallen since reaching a three-year high in February of 72. A shift of less than five points is generally discarded by economists as insignificant.

"Overall, consumers remain apprehensive about the future, but some of the concern expressed last month has abated," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

Even the data of different consumer confidence surveys don't agree on just how concerned Americans' are. Last week, for instance, a Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey that also tracks consumer confidence showed the measure fell in July to its lowest level in more than two years.

Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics., said the increase in Consumer Confidence Index this month is "a bit bizarre given that all the other measures of confidence have recently fallen."

"Nonetheless, it remains at a level consistent with only modest consumption growth," Dales said.

The Consumer Confidence Index reading is "a reflection that Americans are coping with their circumstances and hoping it doesn't get any worse," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group.

The weak job market, for one, has weighed on consumers. The economy added only 18,000 net jobs in June, which was the second straight month of scant hiring. The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the highest this year. That's far below the average job gains of 215,000 per month in the February-April period.

"The employment outlook doesn't look good and household net worth has not surpassed its previous peak and it won't anytime soon," said Chris G. Christopher, Jr., senior principal economist IHS Global Insight.

Besides job woes, there's a choppy housing market. A report out Tuesday showed home prices in major U.S. cities rose for the second straight month in May, propped up by an annual flurry of spring buyers. But after adjusting for such seasonal factors, prices fell in a majority of markets.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index showed that prices rose in 16 of the 20 cities tracked. Still, 19 of the 20 cities have seen year-over-year price declines.

Meanwhile, gas prices remain high, at $3.69 per gallon (3.8 liters), according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That's about 14 cents more for a gallon of gas over the July Fourth weekend and nearly $1 more than a year ago.

And household budgets are being stretched by high food prices. Clothing prices are expected to go up this fall as retailers face higher labor costs in China and soaring prices of raw materials like cotton.

The Conference Board survey, conducted by The Nielsen Co., is based on a random survey mailed to approximately 3,000 households from July 1 through July 14. Survey numbers are updated after the month ends.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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Ford, Chrysler take 2Q hit to position for growth

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 06:10 PM PDT

DEARBORN, Michigan (AP) - Ford's ambitious plans to grow in Asia took a toll on its second-quarter profit, with higher costs to design and sell cars offsetting rising sales.

The company's net income fell 8 percent to $2.4 billion for the April-June period. Ford blamed higher prices for steel and other commodities, but also said that after years of restructuring, the company is strong enough to spend heavily on future growth. Ford spent $400 million more on engineering and advertising new vehicles than it did a year earlier.

"That's the new thing for Ford, that we are investing in the future," Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said.

Rival Chrysler Group also took a hit, reporting a loss of $370 million in the quarter. Like Ford, Chrysler said the loss was a sign of a healthier balance sheet. Without a $551 million accounting charge for refinancing bailout debts to the U.S. and Canadian governments, Chrysler would have earned $181 million.

Ford's worldwide sales were up 7 percent. Revenue rose 13 percent to $35.5 billion. But the company warned last month that its profit could slip, citing investments in future products.

Investment in Asia is the next step in President and CEO Alan Mulally's plan to move beyond the company's near collapse in 2006, when it took out $23 billion in loans to restructure. Since then, it has cut costs and sunk billions into improving Ford cars, resulting in nine straight quarterly profits. Now, the company aims to expand its business in Asia, where it's dwarfed by General Motors Co.

Ford plans to roll out 15 cars in India and China over the next four years, and as a result, it's spending hundreds of millions more on product development than it did a year ago. In Asia, Ford reported a pretax profit of just $1 million, down $112 million from the same time last year. The company also took a hit because some of its hottest cars are smaller and less profitable than its older models, like the $8,000 Figo in India. It hopes to make up for that by selling more cars.

An investment now could mean a windfall for Ford later. GM sells three times more cars in China than Ford does in all of Asia, and GM booked a $600 million profit in its international operations - which includes Asia - in the first quarter. Ford currently controls less than 3 percent of the market in both India and China, but wants to increase its sales by 50 percent by mid-decade.

Ford also said it is spending more on production to meet post-recession demand in the U.S., where people are expected to buy nearly 2 million more cars this year than they did last year. Ford projects that annual U.S. sales will be in the lower end of its 13 million to 13.5 million forecast. The company lowered its forecast for European sales, which were weakened by the debt crisis in the latest quarter. Ford now expects sales no higher than 15.3 million vehicles, down from 15.5 million.

One reason sales softened in the U.S. was a lack of discounts. Both Ford and Chrysler were able to command higher prices for their cars and trucks last quarter, partly because of tight supplies of Japanese cars following an earthquake in that nation.

Chrysler's average selling price rose nearly 5 percent from a year earlier to $29,964 while Ford's rose 1 percent to $31,179, according to automotive website. Both spent less on rebates and other deals.

While Chrysler was focused on paying off its government loans, Ford paid $2.6 billion of its own debt during the quarter. The company now has $14 billion in debt, a legacy of its 2006 restructuring. Ford hopes its steady reduction in debt will convince ratings agencies to return the company to investment-grade status, which would make it cheaper to borrow money.

Ford may not have to wait long. Standard and Poor's Ratings Service said the company's "financial performance is tracking levels consistent with a higher rating," although it said it is waiting to act until Ford completes contract talks with the United Auto Workers union. Ford and the UAW are expected to kick off negotiations on a new four-year contract this Friday.

GM is scheduled to release its second-quarter earnings Aug. 4.

Ford shares fell 30 cents, or 2 percent, to $12.89 in afternoon trading.

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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The Star Online: Sports

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Ferrero into second round at Croatia Open

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 05:51 PM PDT

UMAG, Croatia (AP) - Defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain defeated Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina to advance to the second round of the Croatia Open on Tuesday.

Ferrero - coming back from wrist and knee injuries - had overcome a slow start and rallied to go into the third set when Gonzalez retired because of a back injury at 3-6, 6-3, 1-1.

Ferrero will play third-seeded Croat Ivan Ljubicic on Wednesday.

"It's never nice to win match like this," Ferrero said of his opponent retiring. He added the match with Ljubicic could be "the match of the tournament."

"It is a tough second round for both of us. It would be better to have match like this in semifinals or finals, but what can we do?" he said.

Also Tuesday, fifth-seeded Tommy Robredo defeated fellow Spaniard Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-3, 6-2, while sixth-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini outplayed Rui Machado of Portugal, 6-4, 6-3

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Maria Kirilenko upsets No. 6 seed at Stanford

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 05:38 PM PDT

STANFORD, California (AP) - Russia's Maria Kirilenko beat sixth-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany 6-2, 6-3, Tuesday in the first-round of the Bank of the West Classic.

Seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, playing her first match with a new coach and fitness trainer, was knocked off by Japan's Ayumi Morita, 6-3, 7-5; Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova beat newcomer Rina Fujiwara of Japan, 6-0, 6-2; Germany's Sabine Lisicki defeated Romania's Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-2; qualifier Marina Erakovic of New Zealand beat Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson, 6-2, 6-1; and Poland's Urszula Radwanska topped Ukraine's Olga Savchuk, 6-2, 6-4, in a matchup of qualifiers.

The 25th-ranked Kirilenko, who reached the quarterfinal of this event last year, snapped a 13-match losing streak against the top 20 player with her victory. She'll play the winner of a later match between Serena Williams and Anastasia Rodionova.

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Kerr looking for victory on Carnoustie links

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 05:38 PM PDT

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) - Two-time major winner Cristie Kerr is hoping her love of links golf will help her secure a first victory of the season at the Women's British Open.

The American, whose best finish at the British Open was a share of second place at Royal Lytham in 2006, is second in the LPGA money list behind defending champion Yani Tseng of Taiwan - despite failing to win a tournament this year.

"It's a bit frustrating but you've just got to keep plugging away," Kerr said Tuesday. "Hopefully this will be my week."

The British Open, which begins on Thursday, is being played at Carnoustie for the first time in its 35-year history. "I always enjoy playing links golf," said Kerr, winner of the LPGA Championship last year and the 2007 U.S. Open. "People think it's kind of shocking that this is my favourite kind of golf, but I love it. "I like golf where you don't have to be perfect, where the bounces are going to be different and it's interesting every day."

Despite only having a chance to look at eight holes since arriving in Carnoustie, Kerr was looking forward to the challenge of playing the historic course - even if the weather turns bad.

"It's just perfect weather right now but as we know it never plays the same in a tournament as it does in practice," she said. "We're supposed to get some rain or something by Thursday so it could be very different."

The last American to win the British Open was three-time champion Sherri Steinhauer in 2006. Steinhauer is one of nine former champions in the field that includes Laura Davies, the Englishwoman who won at Royal Birkdale in 1986, and Karrie Webb of Australia, also a victor on three previous occasions. Another member of that contingent is the 22-year-old Tseng, who took the title at Royal Birkdale last year. She became the youngest woman to win four majors when she claimed her second LPGA Championship title last month, having also won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2010.

One American on top form coming into Carnoustie is Stacy Lewis, winner of this year's Kraft Nabisco and runner-up to Ai Miyazato of Japan at the Evian Masters in Paris last weekend.

Lewis has five top-10 career finishes in majors and will be hoping to add to that total this week.

"I was really happy with the way I handled things at the Evian," she said. "Just the pressure of being in the last couple of groups the last two days. It's just getting more comfortable out there, and it's a good time for me." Lewis, like most if the field, was also having her first look at the course.

"I really enjoy links-style golf. You have to be creative and hit different types of shots," she said. "I think the weather actually looks pretty good, so hopefully we won't get too much rain. But it will be windy and you have to play some low shots."

"You've got to putt well at any major championship, so I'm looking forward to it."

Coming into the British Open after her victory in Paris, sixth-ranked Miyazato was delighted with her form as she bids for her first major.

"I'm really to happy to be here. It's an amazing golf course," Miyazato said. "The greens are really slopey which will make it very interesting to play.

"You need to really commit with the tee shots, in fact with every single shot on every single hole and it will be different every day."

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The Star Online: Nation

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EC explains why electoral reform is not in its hands

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 05:50 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: The much-anticipated discourse between the Election Commission and Bersih 2.0 organisers was marred by booing from the emotionally-strung crowd.

Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar was interrupted so many times that he could not fully explain his answers to the questions posed during the dialogue Tuesday.

At one point, the crowd chanted that the "EC has no power" as Wan Ahmad explained that the commission had no power to amend the election laws because this was under the purview of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

"The commission is just an election management body and not an enforcement agency. We don't have investigators. We don't have the power of arrest as the police do," said Wan Ahmad during his opening remarks.

Earlier, the crowds had called on Wan Ahmad to give his explanation why demands by Bersih 2.0 could not be implemented.

However, Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk S. Ambiga, who claimed that the commission was not taking the initiative to change an obsolete electoral system, was greeted with applause from the audience.

"If EC acted to make a change, we will support you. We will be by their side in their struggle," said Ambiga adding that the EC must disclose to the public the amendments it had proposed.

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Amendment to Child Act to protect children from jail sentence

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 05:49 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is planning to amend the Child Act 2001 to protect children, who commit minor offences, from being sent to prison.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, said the amendment would propose that young offenders be issued with a community service order, which is a rehabilitation programme supervised by the Social Welfare Department.

She said the restorative justice approach through rehabilitation seemed more suitable as the children involved in committing minor offences, like stealing and selling pirated VCD, would be encouraged not to repeat the offence.

"We don't want them to be sent to prison or detention centre because if they continue to live in an unhealthy environment, they will be influenced to commit bigger crimes," she told reporters after chairing the National Children Advisory Council meeting here Tuesday.

She said the amendment was expected to be finalised by end of December. - Bernama

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Two RMAF jet engines taken out of Malaysia, says witness

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 05:38 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: A Royal Malaysia Air Force (RMAF) officer told the Sessions Court here Tuesday that two F5 jet engines of the J85-21 type belonging to the RMAF had been taken out of Malaysia.

However, Kuala Lumpur Air Division staff officer Major Abdul Rahim Yob said he did not know whether the two engines were taken out of the country according to procedures set by the RMAF.

Abdul Rahim, 51, who was previously the head of the engineering division, Squadron 12 at the Butterworth Air Base, said he also could not ascertain the location where the jet engines were taken to after they were taken from the Matra 1 godown at the Kuala Lumpur Air Base.

"I only knew the two engines were placed in the godown (Matra 1) on Nov 13, 2007 after looking at the screen on the Integrated Computer Management System (SPKB), which displayed details on the sending of the engines and I no longer had control on the two engines when they were placed at the godown," he added.

Abdul Rahim said this when during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Syed Faisal Syed Amir.

When Syed Faisal asked him whether the two engines belonging to RMAF were missing, Abdul Rahim said: "yes".

He also confirmed that the two engines, of the J85-21 type and with serial numbers E227718 and E227856, had been removed from a F5 aircraft belonging to RMAF after the engines were damaged.

Abdul Rahim is the first witness to testify in the trial of RMAF Sergeant N. Tharmendran and businessman K. Rajandran Prasad who are charged with conspiring to steal and disposing off two RMAF jet engines.

On Jan 6 last year, Tharmendran pleaded not guilty to conspiring with airman Mohamad Shukri Mohamad Yusop to stealing two J85-21 model of F5 jet engines from the Material Processing Shed MATRA 1, Sungai Besi RMAF base, here, on April 30, 2008.

He is charged under Section 380 of the Penal Code which is punishable with imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine upon conviction.

Rajandran Prasad, the director of a supply company, also pleaded not guilty on the same date to the charge of intentionally disposing off the engines at 49 Jalan TS 6/6, Taman Industri Subang on April 30, 2008.

He is charged under Section 414 of the Penal Code which is punishable with a jail term of up to seven years and a fine upon conviction.

On Aug 20 last year, Tharmendran also pleaded not guilty to a money laundering charge, involving RM62,000, while Rajandran pleaded not guilty to five such charges involving RM437,319.50.

The hearing before judge Aslam Zainuddin continues on Sept 22. - Bernama

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Jet engine theft: Court orders Tharmendran's release (Updated)
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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Story of trapped Chilean miners set for big screen

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 06:50 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): The story of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months is on its way to the big screen.

The 33 miners have sold the rights to their story to producer Mike Medavoy, the producer and the miners' representatives announced Monday. The planned film will recount the remarkable plight of the miners who were trapped for 69 days after the San Jose mine they were working in collapsed near Copiapo, Chile.

The veteran producer Medavoy has produced films including "Shutter Island" and "Black Swan." "Motorcycle Diaries" screenwriter Jose Rivera is set to write the script.

"We'll dig deep into their stories," Medavoy said in an interview. "We're not just going to tell a story about 33 miners in a hole."

Miner Juan Andrew Illanes called the project "the only official and authorized film about what we lived in the San Jose mine." The miners are collectively represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

In an interview, Miner Omar Reygadas, 56, said he hopes the film will preserve the hopeful message of the miners' experience.

"We want the film to get into people's spirits," Reygadas said. "I want it to emphasize the spiritual aspects, to show respect between people, teamwork and, more than anything, faith. I think that what happened in this mine was a miracle of life, and that's what I want it to show."

The film will face obvious dramatic hurdles in that its conclusion - that all the miners were safely rescued - is already widely known.

That much of their trial was in utter darkness, too, wouldn't seem to easily lend itself to a cinematic rendering.

Medavoy, who established Phoenix Pictures after years as a top executive at TriStar Pictures, Orion Pictures and elsewhere, acknowledged that he was initially apprehensive about taking on the film because of the well-known ending. But he said the miners' story reminded him of John Ford's "How Green Was My Valley," the 1941 film about life in a Welsh mining town.

"I think of it as all of our lives, just coincidence and chance," Medavoy said. "There's so much drama, and when the drama kicks in, it's really fascinating. And all the drama that plays out above ground can be interspersed."

It's also a personal journey for Medavoy, who lived in Chile for ten years as a child. He calls the film a chance to "explore from whence I came."

"I know the Chilean people," he says. "I know the sense of humor they have, of which they have a lot of. I know the dignity and respect that they like in people. I know how open they are."

Medavoy declined to say how much the deal cost. No studio is yet attached to distribute the film.

The production will also draw on the book being written about the miners by author and columnist Hector Tobar, who was part of the Los Angeles Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the L.A. riots. He has been spending weeks immersing himself in the miners' stories and combing through the diary of one miner, Victor Segovia. The book doesn't yet have a publisher.

"There is a deep, textured story there waiting to be told," Tobar said in an interview. "There is a deep, emotional book about family and faith, full of all sorts of psychological textures, waiting to be written."

Production is scheduled to begin next year.

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The 35th Bon Odori Festival in Shah Alam held to honour locals

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 08:47 PM PDT

TSUNAMI-stricken Japan is still rebuilding its country and thousands had lost a place to stay after the March tragedy.

Just like many of its citizens, Shigemi Naito felt the pain and was at a loss when it came to organising this year's Bon Odori Dance Festival.

"About a month after the incident we were still unsure if we should proceed with the Bon Odori this year,

"We kept asking ourselves what should we do as the tragedy had affected a lot of Japanese people," said Naito who is the event organising chairman.

In April, the team finally decided the event should proceed but with a positive message in mind.

"We were very touched by how Malaysians had responded when our country was struck by the earthquake.

"People came to us with kind words and assisted us with donations," he said.

His team together with the Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur have dedicated the 35th Bon Odori Dance Festival to Malaysians to mark their gratitude to all who have contributed in various ways to Japan.

The theme "Arigatou Malaysia" (thank you Malaysia) was apt.

The event was also the first for newly appointed Ambassador of Japan Shigeru Nakamura.

"We have the same event in Japan but the number of people here is definitely more than what I expected," he said.

Nakamura said he could see that Malaysians, especially the young, enjoyed the event and was pleased with the 35,000-odd turnout at the National Sports Complex in Shah Alam.

In Japan, this popular summer event is held to welcome the ancestral spirits who journey from heaven to visit the earthly realm.

However, in Malaysia, Bon Odori is mainly held to expose locals to Japanese culture as well as to experience the variety of delicacies, art and dance.

The highlight of the event was the gathering around the yagura, a special platform set up in the centre of the stadium where visitors danced together following a group of dancers on the platform with their plastic hand fans.

Those dancing on the yagura were dressed in the traditional attire of yukata — a summer kimono — with matching zori (a pair of wooden sandals).

Besides the dances, many came for the authentic Japanese cuisine available at the stadium.

"The food and the dance is something I look forward to each year," said Kek May Yee who shared that it was her fifth year attending the event.

Together with her friends Tan May Yong and Renee Chung, the trio who came dressed in yukata were seen seated on a mat enjoying their Japanese meals under the setting sun.

"We have also been to the one in Penang but we prefer the Bon Odori here as there are more participants enjoying themselves at the dances," said Tan.

Also spotted at the stadium grounds were Maizwani Shahieda Arman who came with her college mates Nurul Najidah Sidek and Najwa Fitriyah.

Wearing different yukata each, the second year students from Teikyo Language Institute had made the effort to borrow the outfits from their seniors prior to the event.

"We have been looking forward to attending the festival after our lecturers told us about it and our seniors told us we should wear the traditional costumes," said Maizwani.

Another first-timer was engineer Ohashi Eiichi, 38, who came with his family and found the celebration a well-received one by the Malaysians.

"In my hometown in Osaka, we have the same thing but it is a small and close-knit event, nothing as elaborate as this," he said.

The event started at 7pm with performances throughout the night till 11pm by the Japanese Traditional Cultural dance group consisting 115 local university students and the Malaysian Cultural Dance group.

The event is co-organised by the Japan Club of KL, the Japanese School of KL, the Embassy of Japan and Tourism Selangor.

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Fond memories of Atria and Rothmans roundabout

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 08:10 PM PDT

AS A Penangite in the Klang Valley, I must confess that I reminisce more about my home state than my adopted Selangor, which has been my home for the past 30 years.

But I have come to embrace and love Petaling Jaya, its landmarks and its people.

Which is why I feel particularly nostalgic to have to bid farewell to two of its prominent landmarks, the Atria shopping complex and the Rothmans roundabout.

I was having a cuppa with a dear friend at Kopitime last week at Atria. We meet there often because it is convenient for both of us.

In the past few months, we have seen the shutters coming down on one outlet after another as the final deadline to move out approaches.

Kopitime is a more recent tenant of Atria. But in a way, it epitomises the character of what this mall is all about.

It does have most of the things one would expect in a shopping centre but minus the crowds, save for major sales events.

The stores tend to be small and personal. At Kopitime, for example, we just have to show up at the counter and the assistant would know what to serve ­— two Kopi-O.

There is a certain quaintness about Atria, and the surrounding shops, that is hard to find in the other malls.

I recall the time when it first opened and the anchor tenants were Japanese and French — Kimisawa and Printemps.

There was a huge protest by residents of Damansara Jaya as inconsiderate shoppers parked in all the nearby roads.

It was a paradigm shift in a way as for the first time ever, there was no need for the residents of suburbia to go to town — meaning the heart of Kuala Lumpur — to shop. The mall had arrived at your doorstep.

Today, developers planning a major housing project would put more weightage on a mall and even a hospital than open space.

I have many fond memories of Atria as it came about at a time when I was starting a career and a family. My boys spent much time at the mall, especially when it had a games arcade at the top floor. It was small and comfortable, though the only time I "lost" a son while out shopping was here.

My eldest son was about three at the time but he gave my wife's full name to the information counter, and having her name broadcast publicly made us cringe with guilt especially when we heard murmurs from shoppers about "irresponsible parents."

It was also here that one of the first Swensen's ice-cream parlours opened, and it was a nice place to hang out after dinner.

Many of the adjoining stores have survived the many changes of ownership in Atria that was originally known as Gardenia Town Centre. Kimisawa became Parkson Grand while Printemps became Atria Shopping Centre.

As reported in StarMetro (July 25), Lien Hoe Corporation took over Atria in the early 2000s, while Parkson Grand supermarket was taken over by Tops and later by Giant in 2005. Then in 2007, Lien Hoe sold Atria to OSK Property Holdings.

The current redevelopment project will be carried out by Atria Damansara Sdn Bhd and will include five levels of shopping centre, two office towers and a carpark.

Many regulars to Atria appreciate the shops there for their personal touch. Interesting shops that cater to niche markets, be it computers, comics or knitting, have somehow survived the winds of change.

There are also nice shops surrounding the mall itself. Bon Bon is one of my favourite restaurants, and I always drop by the two hawker stalls, one selling soya bean and the other rojak, each time I go to Atria.

How they will respond or relook their business models with this new development remains to be seen.

And what about the Rothmans roundabout?

Well, first of all the name Rothmans is long gone but everyone knows the roundabout we are talking about. It does not quite sound the same if we refer to it as the Sin Chew roundabout, or even the Hotel Lisa De Inn roundabout.

We all complain about the perpetual congestion here and there has been repeated calls for the roundabout to go.

Our wish will now come true. The lights are already in place although all the barriers have been arranged in a circle so we are still approaching a roundabout at this time.

I do have my doubts if the traffic lights will solve the congestion or just move the problem further down the road.

But each time a roundabout disappears, I feel sad because it is a reflection of the increasing busyness of our lives, even in the suburbs, when we need to be told when to stop and when to go because we are always in a hurry.

The roundabout is a British invention and it was primarily built to slow down traffic. In a strange way, a roundabout actually gives us the opportunity to show consideration and courtesy to fellow motorists because the decision to move or to stop is entirely ours.

But the die is cast and now is the time for us to say farewell to Atria and Rothmans. Thank you for the memories.

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin wonders if the mini roundabout at the end of Jalan 222 will be the next to go.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Winehouse family, friends attend singer's funeral

Posted: 26 Jul 2011 06:19 AM PDT

LONDON (AP): Friends and family were saying goodbye to Amy Winehouse Tuesday at a private funeral ceremony in London.

Producer Mark Ronson and media personality Kelly Osbourne - her hair piled beehive-high in an echo of the singer's trademark style - were among mourners arriving for the service at Edgwarebury Cemetery in north London.

Photographers and a few fans lined the lane outside. The service was expected to be followed by cremation and a family gathering at a local synagogue.

The soul diva, who had battled alcohol and drug addiction, was found dead Saturday at her London home. She was 27.

An autopsy held Monday failed to determine the cause of the singer's death. Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, which will take two to four weeks.

On Monday the singer's father, mother and brother visited the house where she died, thanking mourners who had left flowers and cards.

Father Mitch Winehouse said "Amy was about one thing and that was love." "Her whole life was devoted to her family and her friends and to you guys as well," he told fans.

Winehouse released only two albums in her short career - winning five Grammy awards for the second, "Back to Black" - and often made headlines because of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, destructive relationships and abortive performances.

Since her death, her records have re-entered album charts around the world, and tributes have poured in from fans and fellow musicians.

George Michael called her "the most soulful vocalist this country has ever seen," and soul singer Adele said she "paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again."

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Winehouse autopsy inconclusive; funeral Tuesday

Posted: 25 Jul 2011 06:47 PM PDT

LONDON (AP): An autopsy on singer Amy Winehouse Monday failed to determine what killed the 27-year-old star, leaving fans and family with a weeks-long wait for the results of toxicology tests. Her funeral will be held Tuesday.

A family spokesman said the private funeral "for family and close friends" would be held at an undisclosed time and place. Winehouse's devastated parents visited mourners outside her north London home to thank them for their support.

The singer, who had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for years, was found dead Saturday at home by a member of her security team, who called an ambulance. It arrived too late to save her.

The Metropolitan Police said Monday that a forensic post mortem "did not establish a formal cause of death and we await the results of further toxicology tests." Those are expected to take two to four weeks.

An inquest into the singer's death was opened and adjourned at London's St. Pancras Coroner's Court. During the two-minute hearing, an official read out the name, birth date and address of Winehouse, described as "a divorced lady living at Camden Square NW1."

"She was a singer songwriter at the time of her death and was identified by her family here at St. Pancras this morning," said coroner's officer Sharon Duff.

Duff said the scene of Winehouse's death "was investigated by police and determined non-suspicious."

In Britain, inquests are held to establish the facts whenever someone dies violently or in unexplained circumstances. Assistant Deputy Coroner Suzanne Greenaway said Winehouse's inquest would resume on Oct. 26.

The singer's father, mother and brother visited her home on Monday, stopping to inspect the mounds of bouquets, candles and handwritten notes across the road from the Victorian house.

Her father, Mitch Winehouse, thanked mourners for their tributes. "I can't tell you what this means to us - it really is making this a lot easier for us," he said.

"We're devastated and I'm speechless but thanks for coming."

The singer's mother, Janis, was in tears as she examined the flowers, candles, vodka bottles, flags, drawings and handwritten cards left by neighbors, fans and well-wishers. Many of the offerings expressed the same sentiment: "What a waste."

"I'll remember her as a troubled soul," said fan Ethna Rouse, who brought her 4-year-old son to leave a bouquet. "Like many artists in the world - they are tortured souls, and that's where the talent comes from."

The singer had battled her demons in public, too often making headlines for erratic behavior, destructive relationships and abortive performances.

But she was remembered fondly by her neighbors in Camden, the creative but gritty neighborhood where she lived on and off for years.

"She was too young to die and too talented, and too beautiful," said Peggy Conlon, landlady of the Dublin Castle pub, where Winehouse occasionally stopped for a drink. "She's sorely missed by everyone, not one person had a bad word to say about that kid."

Last month, Winehouse canceled her European comeback tour after she swayed and slurred her way through barely recognizable songs in her first show in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Booed and jeered off stage, she flew home and her management said she would take time off to recover.

Her last public appearance came three days before her death, when she briefly joined her goddaughter, singer Dionne Bromfield, on stage at The Roundhouse in Camden, near her home.

Actor Russell Brand, a former drug addict, wrote a lengthy tribute in which he urged the media and public to change the way addiction is perceived - "not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill."

"Winehouse and I shared an affliction, the disease of addiction," he wrote. "Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death."

Winehouse released only two albums in her lifetime - 2003's "Frank" and the chart-topping "Back to Black" in 2006. Both shot up the music charts as fans bought them to remember her by.

Gennaro Castaldo of music chain HMV said "Back to Black" was the retailer's best-selling album. It was also iTunes' No. 1 album in more than a dozen countries including the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Canada.

Celebrity fans continued to pay tribute to an artist whose appeal crossed genres and generations.

On Twitter, singer George Michael called her "the most soulful vocalist this country has ever seen."

"I hope she is at peace now," he added.

Soul singer Adele - one of a generation of British chanteuses whose success Winehouse helped make possible - said Winehouse "paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again whilst being fearlessly hilarious and blase about the whole thing."

"Although I'm incredibly sad about Amy passing I'm also reminded of how immensely proud of her I am as well, and grateful to be inspired by her," Adele wrote on her website.

Jill Lawless can be reached at

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