Selasa, 2 Ogos 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. relaxes limits on Somalia aid as famine looms

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 07:18 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is working to get more relief into famine-ravaged southern Somalia and is reassuring aid agencies they will not be penalized for programs in regions controlled by al Shabaab rebels, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

Somali refugee girls attend Koran classes at the Liban integrated academy at the Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, August 2, 2011. (REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya)

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said under new guidelines, non-governmental organizations working in Somalia would be protected "in the event their operations may accidentally benefit al Shabaab."

Toner said the change was intended "to send a strong message publicly to these groups that are working in the region that it's OK for them to bring this kind of humanitarian assistance into areas that are controlled by al Shabaab."

"They won't be held accountable to U.S. laws that previously constrained them and (we will) ease some of the licensing requirements on them."

The United States has placed al Shabaab on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations, a designation which forbids U.S. groups from providing "material support" to the group that controls large parts of the Horn of Africa nation.

The designation has complicated international aid efforts for Somalia, where a famine is spreading and some 3.7 million people are in urgent need of assistance in southern regions, many of them in areas controlled by al Shabaab.

Concerns over possible diversion of relief supplies to al Shabaab prompted a number of international aid organizations to suspend programs in southern Somalia in January 2010 and continue to constrain aid work, the U.S. officials said.

Al Shabaab has given conflicting signals about whether aid programs will be allowed to resume but the U.S. officials said they believed that, at least in some hard-hit parts of Somalia, it would be possible to get assistance in.

"We don't expect there to be any grand bargain where we'll be able to have access to all of southern Somalia," one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"(But) we believe there will be ways and opportunities to move selectively into southern Somalia."

The United Nations' humanitarian aid chief said on Monday the famine in the Horn of Africa is spreading and may soon engulf as many as six more regions of Somalia.

The United States has already started to move emergency food supplies into the region, with some 19,000 metric tons of assistance delivered last week.

Another U.S. official stressed the new aid guidelines would include risk mitigation procedures designed to prevent al Shabaab from profiting from any aid diversions but they conceded that some spillover was possible.

"There is some risk of diversion," the official said. "We're going to do everything we can to prevent that diversion ... but I think the dimensions of this famine, this humanitarian crisis, are such that we've got to put taking care of people first."

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Syrian forces hit Hama again, U.S. senators seek sanctions

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 07:18 PM PDT

AMMAN, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Syrian forces kept up attacks on Hama for a third day, residents said, while U.S. senators called on the Obama administration to impose tough new sanctions on Syria's energy sector.

Soldiers wave from military tanks driving into the Jabal Al-Zawya area of Idlib on August 1, 2011 in this still image taken from video posted on a social media website. (REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

Washington also sought to put muscle behind its demand that President Bashar al-Assad halt his lethal crackdown on unarmed protesters.

Human rights campaigners said the assaults by Assad's forces across Syria on Monday and Tuesday had killed at least 27 civilians, including 13 in Hama, where troops and tanks began an operation to regain control on Sunday.

That brought the total to about 137 dead throughout Syria in the past three days, 93 of them in Hama, according to witnesses, residents and rights campaigners.

The plight of Hama -- where thousands were killed in 1982 when security forces crushed an anti-government uprising -- has prompted many Syrians to stage solidarity marches since the start of Ramadan.

But Assad's tough response suggests he will resist calls for democratic change that have swept Syria for the past five months, and much of the Arab world this year.

"The United States should impose crippling sanctions in response to the murder of civilians by troops under the orders of President Assad," U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, said in introducing legislation in Washington to target firms that invest in Syria's energy sector, purchase its oil or sell gasoline.

Kirk was joined in sponsoring the bill by Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, who said it was time to push for "a democratic transition that reflects the will of the Syrian people."

While the United States weighed its next steps to respond to Assad's escalating suppression of protests, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with representatives of Syria's fledgling opposition who said the battered pro-democracy movement badly needed stronger U.S. support.

"We really need to see President Obama addressing the courage of the Syrian people," said Mohammad Alabdalla, one of the U.S.-based activists who met Clinton.

"We want to hear it loudly and clearly that Assad has to step down."

Obama and Clinton have said Assad has lost legitimacy, but have stopped short of directly calling on him to leave office as they did Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

The U.N. Security Council negotiated for a second day on Tuesday over a Western-backed draft resolution condemning Syria, before adjourning until Wednesday.

Diplomats said significant differences remained over the text and it had not been decided whether the end result should be a resolution or a less weighty council statement.

Russia and some other countries are pushing for what they say is a more balanced text that would blame both Syrian authorities and the opposition for the violence, but Western nations say the two sides cannot be equated.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on Assad and members of his government, and says it is weighing new sanctions including possibly on its oil and gas industry.


Tuesday night's shelling in Hama followed the pounding of residential areas across the city on Monday night. The renewed assault concentrated on the eastern Rubaii and al-Hamidiya neighbourhoods, the Aleppo road in the north and the eastern Baath district, two residents said.

A crowd which tried to rally in the central Alamein neighbourhood after prayers marking the end of the daytime fast came under rifle fire by Assad's forces.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Rights campaigners earlier said five civilians were killed on Tuesday as tanks thrust further into the central Syrian city of 700,000.

Elsewhere, dozens of people were wounded when demonstrators demanding the toppling of Assad in the western Damascus suburb of Mouadhamiya, the northeastern city of Hasaka, and the port city of Latakia came under fire after the nightly prayers, residents said.

"Ten buses full of 'amn' (security) entered Mouadhamiya. I saw 10 youths falling down as I was running away from the gunfire. Hundreds of parents are in the streets looking for their sons," said one witness living the suburb, 30 km (20 miles) from the occupied Golan Heights.

Residents said tanks first entered Mouadhamiya on Monday, killing two protesters, including a 16-year-old boy, Hassan Ibrahim Balleh, whose funeral was held earlier on Tuesday.

A brief riot appeared to have broken out late on Monday at Hama's main prison. Two shabbiha militia buses were seen heading there at night and smoke rose from the compound as the militiamen shouted "God, Syria, Bashar, only" from inside.

Syria's state news agency SANA said "hundreds of masked gunmen on motorbikes" had set fire to the main law court in Hama on Monday afternoon and had also vandalised much of the building.

SANA said "armed terrorist groups" had killed eight policemen in Hama. The government blames such groups for most killings in the five-month-old revolt, saying more than 500 soldiers and security personnel have died.

Syria has incurred international opprobrium for its harsh measures but need not fear the kind of foreign military intervention that NATO launched to support rebels in Libya.

The senior U.S. military officer called for a swift end to violence in Syria, but only diplomatic pressure was in view.

"There's no indication whatsoever that...we would get involved directly with respect to this," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Baghdad.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn and Malathi Nayak in Washington, Thomas Grove in Moscow, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Catherine Hornby in Rome, Adrian Croft in London, Phil Stewart in Baghdad, Henry Foy in Mumbai and Patrick Worsnip in New York; Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Salmonella linked to turkey sickens dozens, one dead in U.S.

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 06:46 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A multistate outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella believed to be linked to eating contaminated ground turkey has sickened 77 people and resulted in one known death, U.S. health authorities said.

Some 26 states reported the illness between March 1 and Aug. 1, with Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, California and Pennsylvania reporting the most cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Public health officials were still looking for the source of the contamination, but preliminary information suggested that a single production facility may be involved.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert last week for frozen or fresh ground turkey, advising consumers to cook the meat until it reaches 165 Fahrenheit (74 Celsius) on a food thermometer.

The Salmonella heidelberg strain behind the outbreak is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. That antibiotic resistance can raise the risk of hospitalization or treatment failure in infected individuals, the CDC said.

Most people infected with Salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after exposure. Illness usually lasts four days to one week and most people recover without treatment.

In some cases, individuals develop severe diarrhea that requires hospitalization. The infection may also spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and on to other parts of the and can cause death without prompt treatment with antibiotics.

Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group, earlier this year petitioned USDA to declare antibiotic-resistant Salmonella heidelberg and three other strains that have caused outbreaks and recalls as "adulterants."

"That would trigger new testing for those strains and make it less likely that contaminated products reach consumers," CSPI said on Tuesday.

The CDC estimates that one in six people in the United States gets sick from eating contaminated food each year. Foodborne illness is blamed for about 3,000 deaths annually.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Defying fate in Forget Me Not

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 04:33 AM PDT

A woman deserts her dysfunctional family for a new life in Forget Me Not.

IT is 2011 and a brutal kidnapping-murder of a prominent business tycoon has blood staining the entire crime scene though her body is never found.

Police detain a young man who claims to be her son and admits to killing her but he is eventually released due to lack of evidence. The media frenziedly digs up information about her mysterious past.

Rewind to a small rural town in 1978, where a teenager is forced by her parents to marry the abusive man who raped her. After giving birth to two boys, the girl makes several attempts to run away from her lazy husband, who is addicted to gambling, alcohol and drugs. Living in fear of his mood swings, she finally succeeds, but at the expense of abandoning her young sons.

This is the story of Ntv7's new Mandarin series Forget Me Not.

In a press conference last Friday, some of the main cast members shared with the media stories of their eventful shoot.

Remon Lim (plays Xue Ming): COO of Lee Corp and second wife of Xin De, she is a capable business woman who seems generous and thoughtful but is actually desperate to hide her dark and difficult past.

"Filming this series was very enjoyable but especially tiring, too, due to the emotional roller-coaster that Xue Ming goes through," said Lim, adding that her character is a woman who is bent on changing her destiny.

William San (Yang Wei Yi): He is Xue Ming's street-smart eldest son who is a mechanic-turned-chauffeur. He had a difficult childhood; his father is jailed for drug trafficking while his mother has disappeared. For 22 years, he has been caring for his younger brother Wei Hao while they search for their mother. "There's a scene in which I was chased by a huge police dog into snake-infested woods. The dog ran so fast that the trainer had to let go of the leash. I must have burnt a thousand calories then," groused San, who said his face turned a shade of green.

Coby Chong (Yang Wei Hao aka Ah Dee): He is Xue Ming's cheerful younger son and Wei Yi's younger brother. Forced into drug trafficking by his father, Wei Hao was run over by a car while trying to escape from the authorities, causing him to suffer a brain injury that impaired his mental faculties.

Chong has high hopes for his portrayal of a kindly, retarded fellow, saying: "If in Hong Kong, people remember Ah Wong (a retarded guy played by Roger Kwok in Square Pegs and Life Made Simple) and Fei Mao (Kent Cheng in Fat Cat) then in Malaysia, I hope the viewers will remember Ah Dee."

Jordan Voon (Lee Xin De): CEO of Lee Corp who is a happy-go-lucky casanova with two wives (Yong En and Xue Ming) and two children (a son, Kent, with his first wife and a daughter, Annie, with his second). A filial son who respects his mother, he is an experienced businessman who is happy to leave the running of the business to his competent second wife Xue Ming.

Cast in yet another playboy role, Voon lamented: "Xin De has two wives but no love in his life so he fills the void by seeking relationships with other women."

Angela Chan (Yong En): First wife of Xin De and mother of Kent, she appears to be a prim and proper lady but is actually two-faced and malicious.

Coming from a well-to-do family, her misery stems from her flirtatious husband but she tolerates his infidelity in order to maintain her position in the Lee family. She blames Xue Ming for stealing her husband hence she always plays the victim to make things difficult for Xue Ming.

Taking on a villainous role for the first time, Chan shared: "As Yong En, I had to cry so much that my eyes bled and once I even stepped on a nail and had to be sent to hospital for a tetanus shot."

Wayne Chua (Jane Lin Li Wen): A salesgirl at a jewellery shop owned by Lee Corp, she is a gold-digger who is courted by Kent and ends up as Xin De's mistress, although she is actually in love with the selfless Wei Yi.

Coming from a complicated single-parent family and having endured much hardship, she will seize any opportunity to earn money to help settle her mother and brother's debts.

"Li Wen is an ordinary girl thrown into extraordinary circumstances due to her gambler mother and unemployed brother, and ends up having to use three different men to solve her problems," said Chua, who returned to Malaysia to film the series after being based in Singapore for the past two years.

Jojo Goh (Annie Li Ruo Tong): Xue Ming's filial daughter with Xin De, she is a hard-working jewellery designer. Kind-hearted and down-to-earth, she seems to always fall for the wrong man, from romantic entanglements with her best friend's man to feelings for her mother's chauffeur who turns out to be her half-brother.

Thankful for the support and synergy she shared with Chua on the set, Goh said: "Annie is an independent girl who is somehow detached from it all and would rather believe that people are inherently good."

Leslie Chai (Kent Li Guo Xiu): Dashing but arrogant son of Xin De with his first wife, he is the dream man of every unmarried female working at Lee Corp.

He is taught by his mother to dislike his father's second wife and to look down on her as a tramp with no family background and to treat her with disdain.

Playing an extremely nasty character for the first time, Chai offered: "I kept analysing Kent as a character and felt bad even when I got home each day as I couldn't get over how mean he was to others, especially as he repeatedly hits Li Wen."

Forget Me Not airs on Ntv7 at 10pm from Mondays to Thursdays.

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Justified: A not-to-miss series

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 04:43 PM PDT

Justfied shoots to kill with its excellent second season.

FOR an hour every week, Justified offers one of television's finest moments. Little wonder then that it has snagged three Emmy nominations, one each for lead actors Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins.

Season Two has surpassed the first by adding a number of fantastic new characters, which in turn help lead the series to unexpected and absorbing storylines.

The plot's elevation may also have something to do with Goggins appearing as a regular cast member, which means the series is now divided between the characters played by Goggins and Olyphant.

In the first season, we discovered that the two were once friends. But their choices in life have made them enemies – one is a criminal and the other, a US Marshall.

Make no mistake though, there is no clear dark knight or white hat when it comes to these two. It is a credit to the two actors who make their respective scenes so arresting that we have no choice but to give our full attention to what's happening on the screen for the whole hour.

Although their storyline is diverged in the beginning, the paths they take often lead them to the same place (though on opposing ends).

Every time these two characters do come together, there are just so many things crackling in the air around them – unresolved issues, the uneasy truce and their fragile friendship.

With Olyphant and Goggins wearing the characters' shoes, we are immediately pulled into this little drama. There's no doubt their stories are the driving force behind Justified.

But that's not the only thing.

The second season kicks off with a seemingly harmless episode – almost uncharacteristically procedural, with Raylan Givens (Olyphant) setting out to find a paedophile in Harlan county.

The journey takes him to meet with Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), who oversees a quaint little country store as well as a large marijuana business in the district. Apparently, the Givens family and the Bennett family had a tiff that dates back for generations – so the exchange of words between the two is friendly but terse.

One thing about the series, which is based on Elmore Leonard's short story, is that it has always featured great dialogue.

In the case of Givens and Mags, the conversation may be lyrical and sweet, but it's clear Mags is no ordinary woman and Givens knows only too well what lurks behind her "apple pie" demeanour.

Two of her three children reek of drug abuse and, unfortunately, stupidity. The other son is a corrupted Sheriff, who makes sure the law does not touch any of the Bennets. The three boys know that Mags is the boss, as does Givens.

Actress Martindale is simply superb as Mags (she received the series' third nomination) – especially in the final minutes of the first episode where she coolly kills a man and tells her boys to get rid of the body. Whoa, mama!

Playing one of her sons is Jeremy Davies (of Lost) who's never looked dirtier or more pathetic than as Dickie, a man who botches up every plan because he is just that arrogant and dumb.

Dickie, as it turns out, has a history and a bone to pick with Givens.

The US Marshall's past also catches up with him in the form of his father, Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), a petty criminal who dreams of making it in the big league.

If there is one area that Justified falters, it's when the focus is on Givens and his ex-wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea). No offense to the actress playing Hawkins, but the character is just annoying.

While other female characters in the show don't use their damsel in distress card, Hawkins often does, forcing Givens to do things he knows he shouldn't.

Through Hawkins, the audiences are supposed to see another side of Givens when he's not flashing his badge. But, oh boy, the whole subplot about the ex-wife and her husband who gets involved with some bad people is boring.

Fortunately, Goggins' Boyd Crowder saves the day. Soon after giving up his flock and his new-found faith, Crowder returns to work in the coal mines to find his true purpose.

Crowder, however, doesn't get a break just because of who he once was. Actually, his background makes it that much harder for him to break free from the person everyone else thinks he is.

No matter how hard he hints that he wants to be left alone, he gets visits from other criminals who want him to know about their criminal achievements.

The intrigue lies in the decision that Crowder will make.

Even more interesting, Crowder is staying at his sister-in-law Ava's (Joelle Carter) house.

Ava is, of course, the woman who shot Crowder's brother dead in the first season and was all set to shoot Crowder as well just to prove her point that she's serious about cutting off ties from the Crowder family.

And now, they are staying together?

It is unexpected turns like this that make Justified a series you don't want to miss.

Justified Season Two airs on AXN (Astro Ch 701) every Monday at 10.55pm.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Asian markets dip in morning trade

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 07:33 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Concerns over the health of the US economy continued to dog markets in Asia despite a last-minute deal being struck by both houses of Congress over the deficit.

US and European markets fell at the close on Tuesday despite the US Senate ratifying the deal, implying that investors were now focused on the slowing US growth as measured by lower consumption and manufacturing activities.

Asian bourses opened Wednesday's trade in the red with Tokyo's Nikkei 225, Seoul's Kospi and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 lower in the morning.

The local bourse's FBM KLCI dropped 0.86% to 1,541.52 at 10am while Singapore's Straits Times Index shed 1.88% to 3,117.33.

The Nikkei 225 tumbled 2.21% to 9,627.12 at the midday break, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped 2.10% to 21,951.69, Shanghai's A share index lost 0.16% to 2,675.04 and Seoul's Kospi Index slid 2.78% to 2,062.24.

Stocks were broadly down at Bursa Malaysia, with 457 decliners versus 51 advancers while 155 other counters were traded unchanged.

There were 203.94 million shares traded with a total turnover of RM234.57 million.

Petroliam Nasional-related counters Petronas Gas and MISC were 20 sen and 15 sen lower respectively to RM13.24 and RM7.40.

DiGi lost 22 sen to RM30, Hong Leong Financial was down 20 sen to RM13.02, Genting shed 18 sen to RM10.74 and Tradewinds was 17 sen lower at RM9.41.

Nymex crude oil in electronic trade fell 48 cents to US$93.31 per barrel.

Spot gold was down US$6 to US$1,653.40 per ounce while silver lost 11 cents to US$40.69.

The ringgit was quoted at 2.980 to the US dollar and 4.225 to the euro.

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US and global markets fall(update)

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 05:51 PM PDT

NEW YORK: The U.S. stock market fell sharply Tuesday because investors have grown increasingly worried about the economy.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 33 points, or 2.6 percent, and is now down 0.3 percent for the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 266 points, or 2.2 percent, and is now up just 2.5 percent for the year.

A series of weak economic reports and poor earnings reports from several big companies spurred the market decline.

The Commerce Department reported that consumers cut their spending in June for the first time in nearly two years. Analysts had predicted a slight increase. Incomes also rose by the smallest amount since September, reflecting a weak job market.

The news came one day after a weak manufacturing report. And last Friday, the government said that in the first half of the year, the economy grew at its slowest pace since the recession ended in June 2009.

"The market is starting to wonder where the growth is going to come from," said Nick Kalivas, a vice president of financial research at MF Global. "It hasn't hit the panic button yet, but that's where we're drifting."

The S&P 500 closed down 32.89 points at 1,254.05. It has fallen seven straight days, losing 6.8 percent.

That's the S&P's longest string of losses since the height of the financial crisis in October 2008.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 265.87 at 11,866.62. The Dow has fallen eight straight days, also the longest streak since October 2008. It's down 858 points, or 6.7 percent.

The Nasdaq composite fell 75.37, or 2.7 percent, to 2,669.24.

And the Russell 2000, an index of smaller companies that many investors look to as a sign of market optimism about growth, fell 3.3 percent. It is now down 2.1 percent for the year.

All 30 stocks in the Dow fell.

General Electric Co., Pfizer Inc. and Home Depot Inc. led the index lower with losses of 4 percent or more. All but 13 of the 500 companies in the S&P index fell.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. dropped 6 percent after the agricultural conglomerate said it missed Wall Street's profit forecasts. High-end retailer Coach Inc. lost nearly 7 percent after the company said margins declined, cutting into profits.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to a low for the year of 2.62 percent from 2.75 percent Monday. Investors bought Treasury securities, which are considered safe, because of the economic worries. That drove prices up and yields, which move the opposite way, down. Gold, another asset investors buy when they're worried about the direction of the economy, gained 1.4 percent to $1,645 an ounce.

Even with the current streak of losses, the S&P and Dow are near where they were at the end of June. But some investors say that there's a strong likelihood both indexes will decline further this year because the economy is not as strong as they thought it was in June.

Last year when the economy slowed sharply, the Federal Reserve began a bond-buying stimulus program, known as quantitative easing. That was credited with helping the U.S. economy avoid another recession.

Now, the Fed has indicated it does not have plans to implement another round of what is called monetary stimulus. And the new focus on deficit reduction in Washington makes it even less likely that Congress would approve what is called fiscal stimulus.

"With this debt debate going on, there is not an expectation for more fiscal or monetary stimulus and that's a real concern," said Jim Peters, the head of Tactical Allocation Group, a money manager in Michigan with $1.5 billion under management.

The S&P index fell through what's referred to as its 200-day moving average, a measure that technical traders look at to determine whether the market is moving up or down longer term. Many investors use the average as a sign of when to sell.

"The market broke through some pretty critical support levels," said Richard Ross, the global technical strategist at Auerbach Grayson, and dampened market optimism. He said that investors will wait for the market to settle before they buy again.

The S&P is now down 8 percent since reaching its high for the year of 1,363 on April 29. That puts it close to a 10 percent drop, which would signal a market correction. A drop of more than 20 percent would put an end to the bull market that started in March 2009.

In 2008, the S&P had a much steeper decline. Over eight straight days of declines that ended on Oct. 8, the index lost 22.9 percent. It fell even further over the next six months. Since March 2009, the S&P is up 85 percent, not including dividends.

The consumer spending pullback was the latest indication that the U.S. economy may be slowing. Many economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, have said the U.S. economy would gain momentum in the second half of the year as gas prices fall and Japan's factories recover from the earthquake disaster in March. Slow U.S. manufacturing growth, a weak job market and concerns about spending cuts that are included in the debt deal have cast doubt on those predictions.

President Barack Obama signed a compromise bill Tuesday to raise the country's borrowing limit, hours ahead of a midnight deadline after which the U.S. government wouldn't have enough money to pay all its bills. The passage of the bill averted the possibility of a default on U.S. debt. The bill also requires more than $2 trillion in spending cuts to be made over the next decade.

Growth in China and India also has slowed recently after their central banks raised interest rates. American corporations have counted on increasing sales in Asia as a way to make up for slower revenue growth in the U.S. As a whole, companies in the S&P 500 index are expected to make nearly half their profits overseas in 2011.

Four stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was higher than average at 5.3 billion shares.

From London AP reported stocks fell further on Tuesday as worries over the state of the U.S. economy capped any relief to the news that U.S. lawmakers have finally agreed to a package of measures to raise the U.S. debt ceiling.

A weak manufacturing survey from the Institute for Supply Management Monday raised fears that the world's largest economy is slowing rapidly.

The survey provided evidence that the tortuous debt talks in Washington have hurt economic confidence. A raft of U.S. economic data this week, which culminates with Friday's closely-watched payrolls figures for July, will be monitored in that context.

Indicators last week showed that the U.S. economic recovery has slowed down dramatically, with annualized growth of only 1.3 percent in the second quarter.

The worry in the markets is that growth will slow even further in the second half, at a time when China and Europe appear to be stalling, too.

Data showing that U.S. personal income rose by only 0.1 percent in June and that personal spending unexpectedly fell 0.2 percent did little to calm investor jitters.

Worries about growth have more than offset any relief over a debt deal in Washington. The House of Representatives comprehensively passed a bill to increase the debt ceiling on Monday and the Senate is expected to follow suit later, just in time to prevent a damaging debt default, though possibly not to avert a credit rating downgrade.

"Now that everyone is breathing easier as we await today's Senate vote on the debt deal, the focus has returned back to the economy and what is now cooking on the front-burner doesn't smell very appetizing," said Jennifer Lee, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 1.0 percent at 5,718.39.

Germany's DAX fell 2.3 percent to 6,796.75.

The CAC-40 in France ended 1.8 percent lower at 3,522.79.

In the currency markets, the dollar has generally been in demand since Monday's weak manufacturing survey. Even though the data stoked worries over the U.S. economy, the dollar often garners support through its status as a perceived safe haven.

"A firmer U.S. currency is largely a reflection of an increase in global risk aversion rather than a positive reaction to resolution of the U.S. debt ceiling impasse," said Vassili Serebriakov, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo Bank.

The euro is being hobbled by worries that Europe's debt crisis may spread, possibly to much bigger Spain and Italy, which have seen the yield on their ten-year bonds rise to their highest level since the euro was established in 1999. There are mounting worries that the small island nation of Cyprus may also be dragged into the debt crisis through its close connections with Greece and the damaging economic consequences of last month's blast at the country's main power plant.

By late afternoon Tuesday London time, the euro was trading at $1.4222, up from earlier lows but still around a cent and a half below where it was when the ISM figures were released Monday.

Meanwhile, the dollar has edged higher from near all-time lows against the yen amid mounting speculation that Japan's monetary authorities may intervene in the markets to stem the export-sapping appreciation of the currency.

The dollar fell as low as 76.29 yen Monday, just shy of its record post-World War II low of 76.25 yen in the days following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The yen's strength in March prompted the world's leading central banks to join together to weaken the currency.

The prospect of further intervention, whether unilateral or not, has helped the dollar push back up to 77.13 yen. Earlier in the session, it had traded higher at 77.38 yen.

"Higher risk aversion is likewise boosting the yen, but we suspect that the threat of a policy response by the Japanese authorities will stand in the way of significant further upside in the Japanese currency," said Wells Fargo's Serebriakov.

The yen's strength is another cause for concern for Japan's major exporters and the Nikkei 225 closed down 1.2 percent to 9,844.59.

Elsewhere, China's Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.9 percent to 2,976.26.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.1 percent to 22,421.46.

Worries over the global economy weighed on oil prices. Benchmark oil for August delivery was down 77 cents to $94.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. - AP

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Chinese automaker to produce cars in Brazil

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 05:44 PM PDT

SAO PAULO: China's JAC Motors says it will start making cars in Latin America's biggest country in 2014.

The automaker says it will build a $600 million plant with an annual production capacity of 100,000 units.

JAC press officer Fabricio Migues says neither the location of the factory nor the models to be built have been defined.

Migues says the new plant will be built and operated in a 50-50 partnership with SHC, the company that imports JAC's vehicles to Brazil.

Last month, China's Chery Automobile Co. said that it will start making up to 60,000 units a year at its new $400 million plant being built near Sao Paulo.

Chery said it hopes to be producing 150,000 vehicles a year by 2016, mainly destined for Mexico and South Africa. - AP

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Ong refuses to use his medical condition as an excuse

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 07:15 PM PDT

BATH: Mixed doubles shuttler Ong Jian Guo (pic) has a medical condition that causes him to tire easily. But that has not dampened his spirits ahead of the World Championships.

In fact, the 180cm-tall Jian Guo intends to take his partnership with Sabrina Chong to greater heights.

Jian Guo, who has been diagnosed with leukopenia — lack of white cells in the blood — will be making his second appearance at the World Championships with Sabrina when they begin their challenge at Wembley on Aug 8.

"I found out about my condition five years ago but I have never used it as an excuse to avoid training. I still go the full distance although I tend to tire easily," said Jian Guo after a hard day's work here.

"I just make sure that I take proper care of myself because the lack of white blood cells tend to make me more prone to infections."

On his career, Jian Guo admitted that things have not been than rosy since his impressive semi-final finish with Sabrina at the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold last year.

"Sabrina had to take care of her foot injury while I had to iron out some weaknesses in my game. We are getting better as a pair," said the 22-year-old Jian Guo.

"We lost to China's He Hanbin-Yu Yang (second round). This time, we hope to score at least one big upset.

"This world meet will be a good platform to see where we stand since breaking into the senior team two years ago. We are the country's second pair and we hope to make our way to the top."

Jian Guo-Sabrina are in the same quarter as four seeded pairs — second seeds Tantowi Ahmad-Lilyana Natsir of Indonesia, fifth seeds Joachim Fischer Nielsen-Christinna Pedersen of Denmark, 11th seeds Lee Sheng-mu-Chien Yu-chin of Taiwan and 16th seeds V. Diju-Jwala Gutta of India.

Malaysia's top pair of Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying are in the top half with two Chinese pairs –top seeds Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei and sixth seeds Xu Chen-Ma Jin.

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World’s fastest man attracts the crowds and draws the sponsors

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 07:11 PM PDT

STOCKHOLM: The fastest man in the world stares at a blank piece of paper for a few seconds and, finding no inspiration, turns to his manager.

"Rick, what should I write?"

Ricky Simms, the director of PACE Sports Management who manages Usain Bolt, gives a look of mock disdain.

Bolt had been asked to write a greeting to the people of South Korea ahead of the Daegu world championships starting this month. Finding the right words is apparently not covered in Simms' contract.

It is one of the few details not looked after by Simms, his coaches and his staff, who choose which events Bolt attends to maximise his success on the track and his outside earnings.

Smiling as he surveyed the media scrum surrounding his client on the eve of last Friday's Stockholm Diamond League meeting, Simms explained how he helped plan Bolt's season.

He said although he offered suggestions, it was Bolt's coaches who ultimately decided where and when the 24-year-old Jamaican ran.

"We work together on it in November of each year and present it to him in January or February. He trusts his coaches to make those decisions, he's an easy guy to work with," said Simms, who is a qualified coach and a former middle distance runner.

As soon as Bolt's participation in Stockholm was announced, local media began speculating wildly about his purse. Simms, though, will give no financial details about the man who was the sensation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he won three gold medals in world record times.

"I see a lot of figures quoted, but what he makes at each meeting is confidential," Simms said. "He's the biggest athlete ever.

"What he brings to a meet in terms of media attention? I think in Rome there were 20,000 more fans in the stadium because he was there. It's hard to put a value on it - maybe he's worth double what he gets paid."

In 2010, the year after Bolt shattered his own 100m and 200m records at the Berlin world championships, he pulled out of the Diamond League meeting at Crystal Palace due to British tax laws. Bolt would have had to pay 50% of his appearance fee in tax, plus further tax on a portion of his global sponsorship income.

Stockholm tournament director Rajne Soderberg said Bolt would pay only 15% of his purse in a so-called "artist tax" for his appearance in Sweden, even though the Scandinavian country has a reputation for crippling taxes.

Like Simms, Soderberg also declined to discuss what Bolt was to be paid.

"He is the big seller of athletics, there is no one who comes close in terms of the interest he generates," he said. "We saw a clear difference in ticket sales when we announced that he would be taking part.

Soderberg does not just measure Bolt's value in ticket sales.

The annual DN Galan is hugely popular in Sweden and sells out regularly but, Soderburg said, Bolt's presence brought an extra dimension for sponsors.

"The value comes next year and the year after, the meet he is at creates a certain level, and then everyone else feels that they have to be there too," he said.

Perhaps mindful of how much it costs to bring Bolt to Stockholm, Soderberg makes sure to get maximum exposure from his participation for both the tournament and the sponsors.

A news release about hiring a Jamaican cook to cater for Bolt generated huge coverage locally and, when Bolt arrived at the airport, there was no limousine waiting. Instead, Bolt told the waiting reporters he would take the Arlanda Express train, one of the tournament sponsors, to the city like any other regular traveller.

But even though he brokers deals like the one agreed with Soderberg to bring Bolt to Sweden for a third time and makes sure his client is well briefed, Simms does not see himself as a wheeler-dealing sports agent in the traditional sense.

"In athletics, an agent is more like a management company.

"I use Manchester United as an example, I do what Alex Ferguson does for the players. It's different to football agents, which is more doing deals. We do all the concierge-type stuff. We do everything." — Reuters

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Yi Ting aims to make record fourth Olympic appearance

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 07:10 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Top Malaysian breaststroke swimmer Siow Yi Ting may be a graduate now but swimming is still very much in her blood and she intends to make a record fourth Olympic appearance in London next year.

Yi Ting has been off the swimming radar since her triple gold exploits at the Laos SEA Games two years ago, taking time off to complete her studies at the University of Arkansas in the United States.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Arts and Sculpture before returning home recently to train at Bukit Jalil under national coach Paul Birmingham.

It will be nothing but swimming from now until the Indonesia SEA Games in November as Yi Ting works on getting back to where she was in the sport.

"I'm back home and training full-time for now. I have not swam for the country since the Laos SEA Games," said Yi Ting, who set new SEA Games records in all the three events she won in Laos two years ago.

"I took a complete break to finish my studies as it has always been delayed because of my previous commitments.

"It's been so long since I raced and I realised I still missed training and stuff like that.

"Now I'm trying to focus on my training and improve my techniques.

"I still need to build up my endurance but I'm looking to try and qualify for the Olympics at the SEA Games."

Yi Ting won the 100m and 200m breaststroke races as well as the 200m individual medley to repeat her best performance at the 2003 SEA Games in Hanoi.

It was also at the 2007 SEA Games in Korat where Yi Ting earned qualification for the Beijing Olympics.

Yi Ting also made the cut for the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and 2004.

The Negri Sembilan-born lass, who will be 26 in December, is excited at the thought of earning a fourth Olympic appearance.

"It will be something good to cap my career as I've been swimming for the country and this is going to be my 12th year now. But I try not to think too much and just take things one step at a time," she said.

"It's important to enjoy swimming again."

Yi Ting will be competing in the Hong Kong Open next month as part of her build-up to the SEA Games.

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Train tickets to East Coast sold out

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 06:23 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Tickets for the KTM Intercity service to the East Coast between Aug 26 and 29 have been sold out, KTM Berhad (KTMB) announced Tuesday.

In a statement, KTMB said it would consider having additional coaches for the route and that any announcement on the matter would be made in the middle of this month.

It said tickets for the North, South and central sectors were still available.

There are 62,304 tickets available for trips between Aug 20 and 30, of which 27,990 tickets had been sold until 2pm Tuesday, it added.

KTM said the remaining 34,314 tickets could be bought at any KTM Intercity counters.

It also said tickets for certain routes on certain dates were also sold out.

They are for the Kuala Lumpur-Hatyai (Ekspres Senandung Langkawi No 20) for travelling on Aug 26 to 28; Hatyai-Kuala Lumpur (Ekspres Senandung Langkawi No 21) for Aug 25-26 and Kuala Lumpur-Tumpat (Ekspres Senandung Wau No 28), for Aug 25 to 29.

For the Singapore-Tumpat route, tickets for the Ekspres Sinaran Timur No 14 on Aug 25 to 29 and the Ekspres Sinaran Timur No 26 for travelling on Aug 24 to 29 are also sold out. - Bernama

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Pos Malaysia offers one flat rate for festive cards

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 05:19 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Pos Malaysia is introducing a special rate of 50 sen for the postage of festive greeting cards to all destinations in the country, effective Aug 1 to Jan 31, 2012.

The flat rate is applicable for all sizes of festive greeting cards weighing below 50gms, to any destination within Malaysia.

"This special rate offers you great savings on postage for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year," said Pos Malaysia Berhad's group managing director and CEO Datuk Syed Faisal Albar.

"Though the rapid development information and communication technology has resulted in greetings sent via electronic mail, short messaging services or electronic greeting cards, the conventional method still remains a preferred choice among many," he said in a statement Tuesday.

He added that Pos Malaysia hoped the one rate initiative would encourage more people to send greetings cards through the post.

However, festive greeting cards to international destinations will be charged as per normal surface or airmail postage, he added. - Bernama

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Banting murders: Statement of key witness not admissible, defence submits

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 05:12 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: A statement by key witness U. Suresh under Section 112 of the Evidence Act 1950 should not be made admissible, the High Court here heard Tuesday.

Defence counsel Manjeet Singh Dhillon, in his submission, said recording officer ASP Ong Seng Keong had used a laptop and a USB pendrive when taking down the statement from Suresh.

"Nobody else has seen what was on the laptop. The recording officer (ASP Ong) did not say at any point in time that whatever was on the laptop was saved on a pen drive," he said.

Manjeet further submitted that ASP Ong left the interrogation room, went to someone else's computer, and returned with a printed document containing the statement purportedly by Suresh.

"There was no evidence on how the document was produced," he added.

Manjeet was submitting at the end of a trial-within-a-trial to determine the admissibility of a statement by Suresh, who is a key witness in the trial of former lawyer N. Pathmanabhan, 42, and three of his farm hands, T. Thilaiyalagan, 20, R. Matan, 21, and R. Kathavarayan, 31.

The four are charged with the murder of cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya, 47, her driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, 44, bank officer Noorhisham Mohammad, 38 and lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32, on Aug 30 last year.

Another defence counsel, Gurbachan Singh opined that the statement under Section 112 must be taken by an independent officer but admitted there was no provision under law to support this opinion.

To this, counsel Amer Hamzah Arshad concurred with his colleague on the absence of a provision but raised the court's objective with the trial-within-a-trial.

"What is our intention here? We need to ascertain whether Suresh really did give the statement. As of now, there are allegations that answers made are tampered by the recording officer (ASP Ong) or interpreter (Detective Sergeant Kamaluddeen Abd Kareem).

"That is why we need independent officers. The questions posed to the witness were leading questions, and the witness only had to answer yes or no.

"The interpreter must ensure what was typed or written in the statement was the same with what the witness was saying.

This could not be ascertained by the prosecution because the interpreter had admitted to not taking down any notes," he said.

Deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Ishak Mohd Yusoff, however, submitted that there were no restrictions under the law in posing "leading questions" to a witness when taking down a statement.

"He (ASP Ong) had explained he prepared the interrogation questions based on pictures, newspaper reports, a briefing by investigating officer ASP Mohd Ishak Yaakob and a police report by interrogating officer Chief Insp N. Govindan," he said.

DPP Ishak submitted that Suresh was not an accused person, but a witness.

"He (Suresh) has the evidential burden to prove that it was not his statement when he had already signed the statement," he added.

Justice Akhtar Tahir said he would deliver the decision of the trial-within-a-trial at a later date

The hearing continues Wednesday.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Catherine Lim: Versatile writer

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 02:08 AM PDT

An author offers a novel set in the 1950s as well as a collection of up-to-the-minute commentaries about a landmark political event that made waves this year.

CATHERINE Lim is often hailed as the "doyenne of Singapore writers" and is one of the most prolific in the region. To date, she has published six novels, two poetry collections and a host of political essays.

The Kedah-born writer, who emigrated across the Causeway in the 1960s, is known for her bestselling novels about Singapore society that are set around themes of traditional Chinese culture.

Lim has achieved several signal honours in her life: in 2003, she was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government, and in 2005 she became the ambassador of the Hans Christian Andersen Foundation in Denmark. Though she's perhaps just as well known for being mentioned in Lee Kuan Yew's 1999 memoirs, The Singapore Story – a feat few can lay claim to!

While her latest novel, Miss Seetoh In The World, is set in the 1950s and is in her trademark style, another book, also just released, is a very different kettle of fish: it is a collection of her political commentaries about the game-changing election in Singapore this year.

In island nation's May 7 General Election, the long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) lost a historic six seats in the 87-seat Parliament to the Opposition, the Workers' Party. Appropriately enough, Lim's book is entitled A Watershed Election.

In an e-mail interview, Lim, 69, talks about her passions and her work.

What inspired A Watershed Election?

Actually, I had no intention to do a book on the election. I had written a number of political commentaries as I watched the events of this most surprising election unfold, almost as if I was keeping a journal. Later, my publisher and I thought the commentaries could be compiled together into a little book.

You mentioned that you had waited 17 years for some signs of real change within the Singaporean society. Can you describe some of these changes that you've witnessed?

I would say that the change was a transformation of the political scene. Almost overnight, what I had thought I would never see – the emergence of an articulate, newly-alert electorate, a chastened, humbled PAP leadership ready to listen, the promise of political openness and engagement – all appeared on the Singapore political scene.

Some of my friends think my optimismis premature, but I'm convinced that Singaporean society has been irrevocably launched on the path of change.

In 1994 you were challenged by the then Prime Minister Goh Ghok Tong over an article you wrote in The Straits Times (Pap And The People: A Great Affective Divide) to enter politics. What are your political views and will you consider entering politics?

No, I have said on many occasions that I will never enter politics. The reason is simple: I do not have the makings of a politician and would fail badly as one! My main contribution as a concerned Singaporean can only be in my two abilities: speaking and writing.

In your latest novel, Miss Seetoh In The World, the main character, Maria Seetoh, is a teacher and you were a teacher once. How much of Catherine Lim is in Maria Seetoh?

I suppose it must be extremely difficult for any novelist not to make use of the protagonist to convey her own thoughts, feelings, her essential philosophy, in situations very familiar to her. Many of the incidents described in the life of Miss Seetoh's classroom and school, I had actually witnessed firsthand when I was a school teacher in Malaysia as well as in Singapore.

Your protagonists tend to be women – would you consider having a male protagonist in a future novel?

Not likely. I'm not so sure I can depict a male protagonist convincingly. For one thing, I do not understand male motives, drives and needs as well as I do those of my own gender.

I see Maria Seetoh as a sort of feminist – she sticks up for her fellow sisters. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

I prefer to see myself as an equity feminist rather than as a gender feminist. The first is concerned with humanitarian issues affecting women, the latter with political power. That means that in the very unlikely event of a reversal of situation in the future, in which women become the oppressors rather than the oppressed, I should hope that I would switch allegiance and support accordingly!

Why do you describe yourself as a chronicler of the human condition?

Ultimately, the true writer writes about the universal human condition, the shared humanity underlying cultural differences. The best test is when a novel written about the life of women in Singapore in a bygone era, for instance, resonates powerfully with readers in Britain, Japan, or Africa.

In The Teardrop Story Woman (1998), you stated: "To be born female is curse enough". Does that apply to you?

I certainly saw the sad truth of this statement when I was a girl growing up in a small town in Malaysia, more than half a century ago. Female children, for instance, were so little valued that they were sometimes given away, a fate never suffered by male children.

The Teardrop Story Woman was set in 1950s Malaya. Do you think this statement is still valid in today's social climate? How much of this statement is relevant in societies like Singapore and Malaysia?

The best effect of education must surely be the improved status of females. Today, there are still vestiges of the old prejudices against women and the social structures binding them, but by and large, women have achieved their independence. Indeed, in Singapore, many women have achieved academic, professional and social ascendancy that their mothers could never have dreamt of.

In your e-novella, Leap Of Love, Li-Ann is a teacher who teaches her students about love and taking risks for the sake of love. How much of Li-Ann is you?

This novel was the only one I had written in a light-hearted vein, aimed at entertaining young people with their impossible romantic notions! There is very little of Li-Ann in me.

Leap Of Love was made into a movie (entitled The Leap Years) in 2005 (released in Singapore in 2008). How did this come to be? How involved were you in the film and are you happy with the end result? Are you interested in writing a screenplay in the future?

As a writer, I had little involvement in the production of the movie – and rightly so, as this was a medium that requires completely different skills. No, I'm unlikely to do any screenplay writing, as I do not think I could manage it. Writing a short story or novel comes much more easily to me.

Which do you prefer: writing novels or poetry?

Novels. I envy those who write wonderful poetry!

Of all the published works you have done, which is your favourite and why?

It's a strange statement I'm going to make here: my favourite book is my next one!

There is an underlying element of politics in your work, but your stories tend to veer more towards social commentary. Will there be a time when you write a full-on political novel?

I do not think so. My chiefinterest is still that vast complex domain of human relationships, in particular the special psycho-dynamics of the man-woman relationship. In Miss Seetoh In The World, there was a very strong political component, mainly because there were some specific political issues I wanted to explore.

What inspires you?

My passionate love of and curiosity about life, I suppose. I observe and remembera great deal, and when something has an emotional impact on me, filling me with anger, disgust, wonder, joy, and shame – it is usually the inspiration for a story.

What is next for Catherine Lim?

I'll go on writing as long as I can. My creative, intellectual life is extremely important to me. I'm not sure what I'll write about next. Maybe death, as that topic has always fascinated me, simply because reflecting about death is, paradoxically, the greatest affirmation of life.

A Watershed Election and Miss Seetoh In The World are currently available in major Malaysian bookstores.

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