Jumaat, 5 Ogos 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Source: Next year last for 'Desperate Housewives'

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 07:20 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP): The "Desperate Housewives" of Wisteria Lane might want to get their affairs in order.

According to a person familiar with ABC's plans for the drama, next season will be its last. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the network and producers hadn't authorized public comment.

ABC, which is scheduled to discuss its fall schedule at a news conference Sunday, declined comment.

"Desperate Housewives," a glossy prime-time soap opera with an ensemble cast including Terri Hatcher and Eva Longoria, made a pop-culture and ratings splash when it premiered in 2004 but has seen its audience dwindle. There's been off-screen drama as well, with former cast member Nicolette Sheridan suing over her departure.

Its creator, Marc Cherry, isn't returning to produce next season's episodes of "Desperate Housewives."

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Fox plans to bring back 'Cosmos' science series

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 06:06 PM PDT

BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) - The Fox network is bringing back Carl Sagan's universe-spanning docu-series "Cosmos," and "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane is on board for the ride.

The 13-part "Cosmos: A Space-time Odyssey" is scheduled to launch in 2013, Fox announced Friday. More than three decades after the debut of the revolutionary "Cosmos," the new series has teamed MacFarlane with Sagan's original creative collaborators. The host will be astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Fox said.

The original "Cosmos" with Sagan was first broadcast in 1980 and remains among the most globally successful American public TV series of all time. (The beloved astronomer-astrophysicist Sagan died in 1996.) National Geographic Channel will air a same-night encore of the episodes following their broadcast on Fox.

"It doesn't really feel like a natural fit on Fox," the network's entertainment president, Kevin Reilly, acknowledged. "But we just like the challenge of it. ... Will it be our biggest hit? Probably not. But I think we can have real success with it, and a long tail and a big cultural impact."

But Reilly took a nearer-term look at Fox's plans during his session with reporters at the Television Critics Association gathering.

Almost jokingly, he broke it to reporters that he had no update on scattered reports that Jennifer Lopez has closed her deal to return to "American Idol" as a judge.

Then he described Fox's fall season of programming as "a hot hand." His prediction: "Fox is going to have success in every genre next year, and the potential for breakout success in those genres."

Looming large this fall is the new Simon Cowell-produced competition series "The X Factor," which Reilly called "the mother of all shows."

But he insisted, "We're not a one-show network. We're a seven-night-a-week network, and I want to be a year-around network and push out that May curtain call."

Also on Fox's fall slate is the big-budget sci-fi series "Terra Nova," which has struggled with multiple delays in getting to the air.

Reilly described the difficult process of perfecting the show's special effects, which include believable-looking dinosaurs interacting with its human stars.

"I've seen episodes that were essentially finished and then you look at some of the effects and they look like hand puppets," Reilly said. "Then I look at it three weeks later and they look like a little bit better hand puppets.

Then a few more weeks and they start to look good. And then two days before it's finished, it looks amazing.

"You just can't share it prematurely. But they're right on schedule where they need to be," he said. "Is 'Terra Nova' a big bet. Yes, it is. But that's the business we're in."

Asked what the future holds for "Glee," Reilly described its new season as focused, taking a back-to-basics approach as it centers on core characters.

In the "first batch" of shows, he said, there will be no guest-star-driven or music-tribute episodes.

He said a rumored "Glee" spin-off is "still in the wind" and might be revisited later this season.

He wouldn't confirm that "House" is entering its final season. He said star Hugh Laurie and the show's producers are mulling their options. But he hinted that the eighth cycle for "House" would be its last.

"My sense is, this is a show that wants to stay creatively vibrant and go out strong, and not limp along for four more years as a vestige of what it was," Reilly said.

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Gunman killed near Saudi prince's palace - agency

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 08:10 PM PDT

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi security forces killed a gunman on Saturday morning after he fired at a checkpoint near the Interior Minister's palace in Jeddah, the state news agency said early on Saturday.

"At 1 a.m. on Saturday, a person carrying a gun fired at a checkpoint in Abdulrahman Al-Malki Street in Jeddah. He was dealt with swiftly and was killed. The event is still under investigation," the statement said.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Chavez to return to Cuba for more chemotherapy

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 07:39 PM PDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Friday he will return to Cuba for a second session of chemotherapy to treat a cancer that has forced him to slow his pace ahead of a re-election bid next year.

Chavez, who had surgery in Havana in June to remove a baseball-sized tumor, told state TV in a phone call that he would undergo medical tests in Cuba on Sunday and could resume chemotherapy treatment on Monday depending on the results.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez talks at his office at Miraflores Palace in Caracas August 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout)

"My evolution continues to be favorable. Recent tests show that. My physical condition is still not the best," the 57-year-old socialist leader said.

Chavez said his trip to Cuba could last five days.

Last month, Chavez spent a week undergoing chemotherapy on the communist-led Caribbean island as the guest of his close friend and mentor, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

He has not said exactly what type of cancer he has, denying media reports of prostate or colon cancer and repeating that doctors have found no malignant cells in his body.

The illness has forced Chavez to cut back dramatically on his marathon speeches and famously long public appearances.

Critics fear he could use his disease to garner sympathy and support at a time when opposition parties sense a chance to end his 12-year rule at next year's election.

The opposition has accused him of putting Venezuela's national security at risk by governing from Cuba while recuperating. But the president said the public understood why he was traveling abroad to seek the best possible care.

"Beyond the cries and screams of those calling for a coup, in desperation, the people support my decision to continue treatment," Chavez said in his call to state TV on Friday.

During his illness he has made repeated appearances on state media, apparently to demonstrate he remains in control, and the phone call was his fifth such appearance of the day.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Eric Beech)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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U.S. Airways jet evacuated in Philadelphia after threat

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 07:09 PM PDT

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A US Airways Boeing 757 carrying 157 passengers was evacuated on Friday at Philadelphia International Airport because of a bomb threat but was later cleared for departure.

FBI special agent J.J. Klaver said bomb-sniffing dogs found nothing illegal on the aircraft after passengers bound for Anchorage, Alaska, were taken off the flight in what he called "an abundance of caution."

Klaver said a letter had been received in London about the plane, which had earlier flown to Philadelphia from Glasgow, Scotland. A federal official with knowledge of the situation said the letter had claimed there was a bomb on board.

The letter was not received by American officials until after the flight from Glasgow had landed in Philadelphia.

US Airways spokeswoman Liz Landau said the Transportation Security Administration ordered the passengers off the Alaska-bound subsequent flight. It also ordered the aircraft taken to a remote area of the airport to be searched.

The plane was cleared for departure more than two hours after it was evacuated.

Klaver said officials were unsure to whom the letter was sent, whether to the police in London or to the airline. It ended up, however, with Scotland Yard.

"It was never deemed as particularly credible," Klaver said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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Last audit slams Indian work on Commonwealth Games

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 05:59 PM PDT

NEW DELHI (AP) — Auditors slammed India's preparations and conduct of the Commonwealth Games last year as deeply flawed, riddled with favoritism and vastly more expensive than planned in a final report that could result in criminal prosecutions.

India had hoped the games would buff its image as a rising superpower. Instead it was deeply embarrassed by construction delays, cost overruns and corruption allegations. The head of the organizing committee, Suresh Kalmadi, is in jail on corruption charges.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India's report questioned Kalmadi's appointment on a recommendation by the prime minister's office in 2004 despite objections from the then-Sports Minister Sunil Dutt.

Law Minister Salman Khursheed said the report from India's top auditing body was presented to Parliament on Friday. "Parliament will reflect on it and decide what needs to be done."

The report also said there were serious irregularities with bidding and contracts. A parliamentary committee will now decide on prosecuting erring officials.

It said the games cost $4.1 billion instead of the $270 million initially estimated. Games revenue that was supposed to pay for the event amounted to only $38 million.

It said the construction of venues and infrastructure lagged behind schedule as the seven-year window from 2003 to 2010 for preparations of the games was wasted.

"The argument of urgency was used to obviate the regular process of tendering for award of contracts," said Rekha Gupta, one of the auditors, adding that competition was limited to favor particular vendors.

The overlays contracts were signed at exorbitant rates by the organizing committee, causing huge financial loss to the committee and the Indian government, Gupta said.

The report also said the contract for a timing, scoring and results system was awarded to Swiss timing company Omega SA after irregularly disqualifying MSL Spain.

It also said the contract for building the games village for housing athletes and officials was awarded to Emaar MGF Constructions on the basis of a single financial bid, denying New Delhi's Development Authority the benefit of financial competition.

It blamed New Delhi's top elected leader, Sheila Dikshit, for using imported luminaries for improving the street lighting in the Indian capital after procuring them at a far higher cost than the domestic luminaries.

This cost the government an extra 370 million rupees($7.7 million), the report said.

The auditors also said the renovation of Connaught place, a high-end shopping center in the Indian capital, was plagued by long delays. The estimated renovation cost of 760 million rupees ($15.8 million) went up nearly nine-fold from 2004 to 2007.

Balbir Punj, a leader of opposition Hindu nationalist party demanded immediate resignation of New Delhi Chief Minister Dikshit.

She, however, rejected the opposition demand and said she would fully cooperate with the parliamentary committee which would go into the audit report.

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Rough American football coming to genteel cricket-mad India

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 05:58 PM PDT

MUMBAI, India (AP) — India, a country with a passion for the genteel game of cricket, is about to get a taste of the rough and tumble sport of American football.

Organizers announced plans Friday for the Elite Football League of India, an eight-team pro league made up of Indian players and coaches that will open next year in this country of more than 1 billion people.

The league said investors include former Green Bay Packers linebacker Brandon Chillar, an American of Indian descent, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys and Hall of Fame tight end and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka.

The inaugural season is scheduled to run from Nov. 2012 to Feb. 2013.

The teams will be the Bhubaneswar Warhawks, Mumbai Gladiators, Hyderabad Skykings, Goa Swarm, Pune Blacktigers, Kolkata Vipers, Delhi Defenders and Punjab Warriors.

"India is beyond doubt a great market for the sports and entertainment sectors," EFLI's chief executive Richard Whelan said at a news conference. "A concept like EFLI presents a huge opportunity and the perfect platform for brands to get visibility and reach out to their potential customers."

The league plans to add eight more teams during the second year and four in each subsequent season until 2022. By then, the league would have 52 teams representing all Indian cities with a population in excess of 1 million.

American football is the latest sport to set up a pro league in India following the success of cricket's multimillion dollar Indian Premier League.

Football, volleyball and the indigenous game of kabaddi have already started leagues while field hockey, wrestling, tennis and badminton are among those in the works.

The EFLI is confident of finding a niche despite being new to the country.

"We felt that India didn't have enough games or sport to watch on television and thus see a huge potential here," Whelan said "We are training coaches from athletics, volleyball and wrestling and hope to be ready for the first season in time."

He said the new league hopes to capitalize on the success of India's victory in this year's cricket World Cup on home soil.

"It's very fortunate that India has this cricket history because with the World Cup as the catalyst, all eyes are on the world of sport," he said.

The EFLI will invite 600 companies to attend an orientation program to discuss strategy for long-term business affiliation. The league hopes to attract not just corporate backing but also support from the army, city municipalities and political parties.

"We will definitely have a pay structure in place soon. We will put up our complete business module in a month or so," Whelan said.

Organizers plan to work with the Indian government to develop the first governing body for the game, similar to the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

They will also use playing fields owned by the government. All of the games in the first season will be played in the western city of Pune at the government-owned Sports Authority of India center.

Organizers said they would share 15 percent of their revenues with India's sports ministry.

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Cricket: Nafees falls late to give Zimbabwe the edge over Bangladesh

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 05:55 PM PDT

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Spinner Ray Price dismissed Shahriar Nafees just before the close to give Zimbabwe the edge after day two of its comeback test against Bangladesh on Friday.

Nafees was out for 50 and Bangladesh was 107-3 at stumps, 263 runs behind Zimbabwe's first innings total of 370.

Mohammad Ashraful was 34 not out and Mahmudullah 4 not out when the players went off in fading light at Harare Sports Club.

Earlier, Hamilton Masakadza hit his first test century in 10 years before a sudden collapse — when the host was set for an imposing first innings total in its first test in six years — brought Bangladesh back into the one-off match.

"Slightly disappointed to be in the position we were in and not press home the advantage," Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor said. "But we have put that behind us and I'm glad that the afternoon session belonged to us."

Masakadza combined for a 142-run partnership with new skipper Taylor (71), but his dismissal for 104 began a slump as Zimbabwe lost eight wickets for 66 runs to go from 304-2 to 370 all out.

Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan and Rubel Hossain took three wickets each to turn things around after a lackluster bowling effort on day one.

"We had a good meeting yesterday and we discussed about bowling as straight as possible and not giving away easy runs," Shakib said. "It will be good tomorrow for someone to score a hundred and put a lot of runs on the board."

Debutant fast bowler Brian Vitori then took two quick wickets at the start of Bangladesh's reply to revive the Zimbabweans.

Nafees and Mohammad Ashraful replied with a 66-run stand but Nafees was dismissed less than five overs before the end, putting Zimbabwe just ahead in a close battle between test cricket's lowest-ranked countries.

Nafees had stroked nine fours in his fifth test half-century, then attempted a sweep to off-spinner Price and the ball bounced off the back of his bat and rolled gently onto the stumps.

Earlier, the Zimbabweans had looked set to move into a dominant position when Masakadza and Taylor took the overnight score of 264-2 past 300.

Masakadza hit eight fours and a six on the way to his second-ever test hundred and first since his debut as a 17-year-old at the same ground a decade ago.

When the right-hander, now 27, clipped a shot to the legside to move to 100 he set a new mark for the longest time for a player between his first and second test centuries.

"It was a long time coming, it was a great feeling. I was trying to stop people to continue talking about the debut one," Masakadza said.

But he fell trying a flashing drive off Robiul Islam (2-106), who also dismissed Taylor, and Zimbabwe lost four wickets before lunch and four more in quick succession in the afternoon session to post a far lower score than expected.

Left-arm spinner Shakib led with 3-62 and seamer Rubel Hossain took 3-84 for Bangladesh.

Tatenda Taibu — who made stinging criticism of Zimbabwe's cricket board in the run-up to the test — resisted with 23 from 44, but when he was out to Shakib, Zimbabwe fell away.

Vitori — one of four Zimbabwean debutants in the test — had Imrul Kayes out for 4 in the fifth over and Tamim Iqbal was on 15 when he was also caught in the slips to leave Bangladesh 36-2.

Nafees came to the rescue with his battling innings and reached 50 off 117 balls. His unfortunate dismissal late in the day sparked rowdy celebrations from the Zimbabwean fielders.

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The Star Online: Business

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New IPOs see lacklustre demand

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 06:50 PM PDT

The last three companies to list on the Bursa Malaysia have seen their share prices trade below their listing prices.

While some analysts attribute this to the weaker market sentiment globally, as investors trade cautiously on renewed concerns over a possible global economic slowdown, others say a company with strong fundamentals and business operations coupled with good shareholder backing will likely buck the overall trend to see a share price upside.

OSK Research director/research head Chris Eng says investors can expect market volatility on the local bourse to continue until the end of this year but was optimistic that the local benchmark, FTSE Bursa Malaysia (FBM) KLCI, would move towards 1,680 by year-end.

"We are still optimistic about the short-term prospects but feel that the focus will be on better known stocks. Looking past year-end, there is a concern over the general global economy and if a recession may take place. So we are cautious about the subsequent six months, with there being high risks of the market re-tracing its steps," he adds.

Twenty-five companies have listed on Bursa Malaysia as of year-to-date, with 15 companies on the Main Market and 10 companies on the ACE Market. Based on Bursa Malaysia's IPO performance table, roughly half of the listings this year are trading below their listing prices, indicating a lacklustre demand for new IPOs.

Analysts attribute the subdued interests in these stocks to several reasons, which include the type of companies that have listed as well as the volatile market conditions causing investors to focus on blue chip stocks that will ride out the volatility.

When markets are volatile, investors are better off holding their positions on stocks that have an existing share price performance than betting on new companies that are just about to list.

For instance, Ideal Jacobs (M) Corp Bhd shot up 307% to an intraday high of RM1.10 within its first day of trade in May before retracing its steps to end at 43 sen on its first day close.

While the company's listing price was 27 sen, it has since fallen below the price and closed at 25.5 sen as of Thursday.

All three companies that listed in the last two weeks Hibiscus Petroleum Bhd, Peterlabs Holdings Bhd and Prestariang Bhd closed at a discount on their first day of trade and are currently are trading below their listing prices, in line with the overall weaker market sentiment.

An analyst says that special purpose acquisition company Hibiscus is the first of its kind to debut on the local bourse and as such, investors would tend to shy away from a company with no operations or income-generating business at the point of the IPO.

"The reason for such a company undertaking an IPO is to raise funds to buy operating companies or businesses. While Hibiscus plans to use the proceeds to establish itself as an oil and gas exploration and production company, investors will typically opt for companies that already have a proven track record," he adds.

Hibiscus, which raised RM235.17mil from its fund raising exercise before it listed on July 25, has seen its share price shed 7.2% against its listing price, ending at 58 sen on Thursday.

Another concern among investors would be the potentially limited upside in share price appreciation for newer and relatively unknown stocks.

Kenanga Research, in its IPO note on Prestariang issued July 26, valued the stock at RM1.07, a potential 19% gain from its IPO price of 90 sen based on targeted financial year 2011 (FY11) price to earnings ratio of 11 times with 9.7 sen earnings per share.

"We think the valuation is fair, judging from its closest peer Century Software, which is currently trading at similar FY11 PER and geared towards government contracting," the report says.

Century Software Holdings Bhd, a financial management software solutions provider, was one of the first few companies to list at the start of this year.

At an issue and offer price of 93 sen, the stock is currently trading at 66.5 sen per share. It should be noted here that since its listing, Century Software has announced a bonus issue as of April.

While some IPOs have not shined upon their debut on the local bourse, there are those that have seen significant share price appreciation.

Such is the case with MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd, the sugar-refining arm of Felda Group, which has continued to trade above its listing price of RM3.50 while Bumi Armada Bhd, which listed at RM3.03, has moved upwards.

As of market close on Thursday, MSM Malaysia gained some 54.57% to RM5.41 from its listing price while Bumi Armada added 34% to RM4.06.

A foreign research analyst says these companies do well on their first day of trade due to strong demand from institutional investors wanting to buy into these companies, especially if they have missed out in securing placements during the bookbuilding exercises.

That naturally creates a strong demand in terms of volume traded over the first few days of these companies listing on the local bourse and with institutional investors buying in, provides a share price support for these stocks.

Meanwhile, Kenanga Research associate director Chan Ken Yew says that companies in an expansion mode and looking to raise funds will likely to proceed with their listing plans.

However, companies with strong fundamentals and are well-known to the investing fraternity will likely be well-received should they seek a listing over the near term, say analysts.

Media reports have indicated that other impending listing include Pavilion real estate investment trust (REIT), Axis Global Islamic REIT and Gas Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

It was reported that MMC Corp Bhd was keen to list Gas Malaysia this year, after securing approvals from other key shareholders, which include Petronas Gas Bhd and Shapadu Group. Gas Malaysia is the sole distributor and retailer of natural gas to non-power companies in the country which consume less than two million mmbtu per day.

Aside from this, government-linked investment companies are expected to divest their stakes in government-linked companies, which will also translate to the listing of several firms on the local bourse.

The Government has indicated that seven companies will be listed under the divestment programme, of which the MSM Malaysia listing in June had incorporated four of the seven listings under the programme.

Market talk also has it that the government's printer Percetakan Nasional Malaysia Bhd, which is currently a wholly-owned unit under the Finance Ministry, may be listed.

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Fund managers say investors should wait for selling to subside

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 06:49 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Fund managers and analysts are mixed in their view on the market following a 513 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

They felt caution was still the predominant theme of the market and it would be better for investors to wait for the selling to subside.

Some are worried that demand destruction from developed markets will hurt exports especially the electrical and electronics and crude palm oil (CPO). More than 20% of CPO goes to Europe. Net exports account for about 25% of gross domestic product.

Hong Leong Asset Management Bhd executive director and chief executive officer Geoffrey Ng said the sell-off in the United States and the market rout in Asia which collectively erased in excess of US$1 trillion in capital value was similar to panic selling in May 2010.

"The selling that is occurring now is orderly. Unlike the flash crash in May 2010 that severely shook confidence in the market itself, today's selling is met with sufficient liquidity as to not result in dramatic price falls, although a 5% retracement in a day is dramatic enough," said Ng.

Two things may occur from here.

Firstly, Ng said that markets could be overly pessimistic of the recently reported economic numbers from most countries which have been below expectations. This may be a possibility due to severe supply chain disruption resulting from the massive earthquake in Japan in March.

"Manufacturing output was severely curtailed in the following months, with far reaching implications to manufacturing activities around the world. The lack of production activity and consumption thereafter may be blamed for the poor quarterly GDP numbers that is scaring the markets today," explained Ng.

Secondly, if markets are proven right, and the global economy is decelerating faster than expected, then the risk of recession increases dramatically. This may force the governments to act again to inject liquidity into their respective monetary systems in order to keep the pace of economic activity from failing further.

"In the near term, this will help stabilise markets and hopefully mend frayed consumer confidence to motivate consumption again," he said.

"Yes, the sell down that we are experiencing now is unnerving."

Ng said the events unfolding could be a continuation of the rebalancing of world consumption that started with the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

"Emerging economies that are rich with population, commodities, national savings and consumption ability are now refocusing their efforts toward building their own consumer base by normalising wages, improving infrastructure and moving up the value-added chain. This rebalancing is not in a straight line, and will have times of immense volatility such as recent times," he said.

Meanwhile, OSK Research Head Chris Eng feels the market is in a "touch and go" situation, and he will be closely looking at how the Dow Jones closed on Friday night.

"If the Dow Jones rebounds by 2% in its Friday closing, then there is still hope. If however it does not rebound, then things will start getting a little iffy. We would then downgrade Malaysia to a neutral, and suggest switching to defensive stocks," said Eng.

He acknowledged that Malaysia was still a very defensive market, but however this won't prevent it from falling.

"Looking into 2012, we are going into an environment of subsidies increasing and interest rate normalisating. Fundamentally, everything will be more challenging," said Eng.

Another research head felt that there was not much to look forward too. "Look at the problems happening in Europe. You have four to five countries facing difficulties to raise money because their credit worthiness is suspect. So, we're going to see borrowing cost increase in an environment where interest rates are also high. Things can only get more difficult."

A trader from JP Apex Securities said: "Don't buy now, as people are still in selling mode. But perhaps in one to two weeks time, things will die down. Look at the strength of the US Dollar today. It has rebounded back to RM3.01 from RM2.90 last week. This shows that people still see US as a safe haven."

He added that Malaysia was not affected as there were hardly any foreigners in the market.

"The Malaysian economic fundamentals are still the same and have been priced in," he said.

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S&P downgrades US credit rating from AAA for 1st time in history(update)

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 06:08 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's on Friday downgraded the United States' credit rating for the first time in the history of the ratings.

The credit rating agency said that it is cutting America's top AAA rating by one notch to AA-plus. The credit agency said that it is making the move because the deficit reduction plan passed by Congress on Tuesday did not go far enough to stabilize the country's debt situation.

A source familiar with the discussions said that the Obama administration feels the S&P's analysis contained "deep and fundamental flaws."

S&P said that in addition to the downgrade, it is issuing a negative outlook, meaning that there was a chance it will lower the rating further within the next two years. It said such a downgrade to AA would occur if the agency sees less reductions in spending than Congress and the administration have agreed to make, higher interest rates or new fiscal pressures during this period.

S&P first put the government on notice in April that a downgrade was possible unless Congress and the administration came up with a credible long-term deficit reduction plan and avoided a default on the country's debt.

After months of wrangling and negotiations with the administration, Congress passed this week a debt reduction package that averted a possible default.

In its statement, S&P said that it had changed its view "of the difficulties of bridging the gulf between the political parties" over a credible deficit reduction plan.

S&P said it was now "pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics anytime soon." - AP

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Coming Soon

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 03:59 AM PDT

Horrible Bosses – Nick, Kurt and Dale all work for horrible bosses. Since they can't really quit their jobs, the trio instead devise a foolproof plan to get rid of their bosses. Or at least, they think their plan is foolproof ... Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Fox, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland and Julie Bowen.

The Reef – A great white shark hunts the crew of a capsized sailboat along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Starring Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley and Adrienne Pickering.

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Rising Up To The Planet Of The Apes

Posted: 04 Aug 2011 09:32 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): Indian actress Freida Pinto got her big break when director Danny Boyle cast the ex-model as the love interest in the 2008 Oscar-winning hit Slumdog Millionaire. Now, she's hitting silver screens in her first big-budget, effects-driven Hollywood movie.

Since then, the 26-year-old has appeared on People magazine's ``Most Beautiful People List,'' starred in smaller, art-house films for Woody Allen and Julian Schnabel, and is the current face of L'Oreal cosmetics.

In Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Pinto plays an expert in primate behavior opposite James Franco and a bunch of genetically enhanced chimps who prepare to take over the world.

The movie is a prequel of sorts to the popular Planet Of The Apes movies of the 1960s and '70s, and it follows director Tim Burton's take on the series with 2001's Planet Of The Apes. Pinto sat down with Reuters to talk about making the film and why she is a Hollywood -- not Bollywood -- star.

It's been over 40 years since the first Apes film with Charlton Heston. Where does this film fit into the story?

It's a modern-day origin story, set now. It's about how a scientific experiment with a potentially life-saving new drug goes terribly wrong and leads to an ape revolution. I think the fact that it deals with topics such as animal testing is very relevant and current. It's very different from the original.

You play a primatologist. Did you do much research for the role?

A lot. Like most people I only knew what I'd been taught in school about chimps, and that's not enough. So I watched a ton of videos about Jane Goodall, who I'd love to meet. All her research was fascinating and so useful, especially in how she studied human behavior in comparison to chimp behavior.

Did you get to work with real chimps, or was it all performance capture?

No real chimps. It was pretty amazing. We've progressed so much with visual effects technology that we didn't need to use real animals. Avatar was a huge step forward, and in this film we've gone even further, in that we could shoot scenes with the motion capture apes outside -- we didn't have to be confined to a studio like before.

Any surprises working with James Franco?

I always try to go into every film with flexibility, because all actors work differently and have different styles. Some are very intense in between takes and scenes, but James was very relaxed and always so prepared. So he could be reading a book and the moment they said 'Action!' he'd be totally present.

This is quite a cautionary tale about human's tampering with nature, genetics and science. What did you learn from it?

It's a message film in a way, but it made me realize how important it is to start a conversation about very serious issues and not just be numb to them. How far do you go in order to better people's lives and fight disease, and at what cost? It definitely made me think about it all.

You're next playing Phaedra in another big action film, Immortals.

I actually shot it before Apes although it's not out until November 11, 2011. I'm the oracle priestess who can see and predict the future, although she doesn't quite know how it'll unfold. Although it's set in ancient Greece, we shot it in Montreal, and it was an amazing experience. [Director] Tarsem Singh created a living set, with all these fantastic cliffs and shrines, so it wasn't just all green screen.

You're starring in all these big Hollywood epics. Will you ever make a Bollywood film?

I am trying to balance it all with smaller indie films, and I just did Trishna with Michael Winterbottom, which is my second Indian film after Slumdog. So I feel I've done the Bollywood thing in a way.

Where are you based? Any plans to move to Hollywood?

I live like a gypsy, all over the world. My main bases are Bombay and London, but even when I'm back home in Bombay I still live out of a suitcase, because I feel like if I unpack, within a few days I'll get a call to go somewhere else. So I prefer keeping that one bag always packed. And filmmaking is so international now. We did Apes in Vancouver, although it's set in San Francisco, and all the effects were done in New Zealand. Hollywood's really more a state of mind now.

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Schwarzenegger inches back after child disclosure

Posted: 04 Aug 2011 08:52 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Arnold Schwarzenegger is making a comeback.

The former California governor on Thursday made his first speech in the state since confirming in May that he fathered an out-of-wedlock son, the latest sign he's gradually maneuvering back into the public eye.

Once among the most public of men, Schwarzenegger has appeared in public only sporadically in recent months.

In the days after he split with wife Maria Shriver, he told his talent agency to postpone his movie projects. His Twitter account - once busy with posts and photos from afar - fell out of use. He hired a divorce lawyer, and the former Hollywood star known to crave the spotlight went into a self-imposed exile to sort out his family problems.

That's been slowly changing.

He started tweeting again in late June when he traveled to his native Austria for an environmental conference, far from his troubles in the US Last month, he announced he will return to acting with a starring role in the Lionsgate film "Last Stand." Schwarzenegger will play a border-town sheriff who unwittingly finds himself battling a notorious drug kingpin on the run.

He never mentioned his marital problems in his appearance before a business group at a downtown hotel, or his admission of fathering his now-teenage son with the former maid, Mildred Baena. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, and applauded him warmly after he recounted how he teamed with business leaders to reform the state's workers' compensation laws.

He gave a glossy recounting of his uneven years in Sacramento, cherry-picking accomplishments such as redistricting reform and never mentioning that the state economy has struggled for years.

Sporting a deep tan, he joked that he was running for president in 2012 - of a bodybuilding association. Speaking for about ten minutes, the moderate Republican warned about the dangers of political gridlock, telling the group that partisan division was choking progress in California and Washington. "We have too many of the legislators that are too far to the right or too far to the left, and therefore nothing gets done," he said.

The speech comes in the midst of his divorce, which is unfolding largely behind closed doors. Last month he withdrew a request for a judge to terminate Shriver's right to spousal support, and he clarified that he is willing to pay his estranged wife's attorney.

Once a popular governor, Schwarzenegger returns to the public stage with his image badly bruised. One poll taken after disclosures about the out-of-wedlock son and his split with Shriver found nine of 10 voters in his home county of Los Angeles didn't like him.

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Jelutong MP Ooi reprimanded over housing issue

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 05:35 AM PDT

Published: Friday August 5, 2011 MYT 8:33:00 PM
Updated: Friday August 5, 2011 MYT 8:35:21 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi has been reprimanded by the DAP disciplinary committee over the issue of low-medium cost housing in Penang.

Ooi was summoned before the committee after he called for the resignation of his colleague, Penang Town and Country Planning, Housing and Arts Committee chairman Wong Hon Wai.

Committee chairman Tan Kok Wai said Ooi "is entitled to appeal to the party's central executive committee within 14 days."

Tan said Ooi had resorted to using the media in calling for Wong's resignation when he had unlimited revenue to resolve the issue within the party and the state government.

Related Stories:
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Gag on Ooi-Wong spat
Ooi vs Wong spat heats up
DAP leaders dispute over name list for cheap houses

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Police: Boy strangled and placed in plastic bag

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 05:16 AM PDT

Published: Friday August 5, 2011 MYT 8:15:00 PM
Updated: Friday August 5, 2011 MYT 8:16:13 PM

AMPANG: The five-year-old boy whose body was found inside a plastic bag along with the body parts of another woman inside a unit at the Astaria Apartment in Taman Kosas here is believed to have been strangled.

Police are working on that theory as there were no injury marks on his body.

Ampang Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Amiruddin Jamaluddin said forensic pathologists had completed the reconstruction of the dismembered body of the woman.

"It is difficult to ascertain her nationality as the body was badly decomposed," he told reporters.

ACP Amiruddin said police were still trying to trace the owner of the apartment, believed to have been put up for auction several years ago after it was abandoned for over 10 years.

More in The Star Saturday.

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PKA's land purchase went against Treasury's decision

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 05:01 AM PDT

Published: Friday August 5, 2011 MYT 8:00:00 PM
Updated: Friday August 5, 2011 MYT 8:01:40 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Port Klang Authority (PKA) continued to hold a meeting to discuss the purchase of a piece of land in Pulau Indah despite the Finance Ministry's decision to acquire it, the High Court was told.

Former Transport Ministry deputy secretary-general (Planning) Datuk Abdul Rahman Mohd Noor said the meeting with the vendor, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB), was chaired by PKA general manager O C Phang, according to a letter dated Dec 27, 2001.

He said the Finance Ministry's decision to acquire the 400ha land was made six months earlier, that is on June 12, 2001.

Earlier, Abdul Rahman said the PKA's decision to purchase the land went against that of the Finance Ministry.

Dr Ling, 68, faces an amended principal charge of cheating the Malaysian government by concealing from the Cabinet the additional interest of 7.5 percent a year on the purchase price of a land in Pulau Indah as against the six percent rate set by the Valuation and Property Services Department (VPSD).

He also faces two amended alternative charges of cheating the government by not revealing to the Cabinet the facts related to the additional interest rate, and cheating the Cabinet into believing that the facts related to the purchase of the land were certified and agreed to by VPSD when he knew there was no such consent.

The offences were allegedly committed at the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002.

More in The Star Saturday.

Related Stories:
Ex-govt valuer contradicts Sahari's statement on price
Dr Mahathir to be called as witness in Ling's RM1.08bil cheating trial

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Ugly side of the human ego

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:19 AM PDT

Questions about the authenticity of the bestselling non-fiction novel Three Cups Of Tea have been swirling since April. This book looks into the issues and saddens our reviewer with its convincing arguments that a man hailed as a humanitarian hero has feet of clay.

THREE Cups Of Deceit is an expose of Greg Mortenson, a humanitarian crusader whose work in building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan has brought him international recognition, including praise (and donations) from US President Barack Obama and three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The organisation that fronts this work is CAI, the Central Asia Institute, a body that has handled many millions of dollars donated by devotees of Mortenson's bestselling, swashbuckling accounts of how he found his mission in life, Three Cups Of Tea and Stones Into Schools.

His profile, and funding, have been further raised by his charismatic personal appearances to huge crowds of donating fans.

According to Mortenson, this money has been used to build schools in remote areas of Taliban territory in Afghanistan where the alternative to his schools is fundamentalist indoctrination. He sits, he argues, on the frontline of anti-terrorism.

But according to Jon Krakauer, Mortenson's books are a disturbing mix of fact and fiction and much of the money donated to CAI has funded Mortenson's lavish lifestyle and directly or indirectly lined his pockets (Cups Of Trouble, Reads, April 24).

Even Krakauer concedes that Mortenson has done some good work and it is worth quoting this before the caveats begin.

"In all fairness, Greg Mortenson has done much that is admirable since he began working in Baltistan sixteen and half years ago. He's been a tireless advocate for girls' education.

"He's established dozens of schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan that have benefited tens of thousands of children, a significant percentage of them girls."

Given that this is an accomplishment far greater than most people could ever dream of and considerably more than many charitable organisations manage to achieve, it seems fair to ask what all the fuss is about.

Who cares about the inaccuracies in his stories or if he hires too many private jets, the man gets things done!

That's a beguiling response but it is, of course, deeply flawed.

The problem is, CAI has been built on the image of Mortenson, and if that image is seen to be less than squeaky clean then the work of CAI is inevitably going to be called into question.

Krakauer provides compelling evidence that for CAI's mission to continue it will need to part company from the man who initiated it.

The charges against Mortenson are threefold.

Firstly, his account of how he came to be involved in Pakistan is suspect. He claims that he became separated from his porter on his descent from an unsuccessful attempt on the summit of K2 and stumbled into the village of Korphe. There he met Haji Ali, the village chieftain, who cared for him until he recovered his strength. In return, Mortenson promised him a school. All of this is told in Three Cups Of Tea, a third person narrative in which Mortenson is presented as a Himalayan version of Indiana Jones.

It appears that almost none of this is accurate and a number of other events are also in dispute, including his account of being captured by the Taliban and held prisoner at gunpoint. Three Cups Of Tea is a ripping yarn and like most ripping yarns it is economical with the truth.

Does that matter? Well, it does if you then repeat this inaccurate version of events in all of your public presentations and raise millions of dollars on the back of it.

Krakauer's second and third main charges are arguably two sides of the same coin. In essence, they are that Mortenson sees himself as accountable to no-one and runs CAI as his personal empire. The lack of clear and detailed information about CAI's activities and its finances extends to questioning how many schools have actually been built, where, and to what extent they are operating as schools with proper teachers and pupils. Arguably, these are far more serious charges than the fictionalising and romanticising of his own life story.

Krakauer provides convincing evidence of financial irregularities that have since led to lawsuits from American legislators and possible investigations into Mortenson's tax affairs. Specifically, CAI funds have been used to promote his books and pay his excessive travel expenses, both of which amounted to in excess of a million dollars in 2009. Shockingly, there appear to be no records that CAI received any royalty payments from the heavily advertised books or any fees from the speaking engagements.

Ultimately, this is a sad book. It is impossible to finish it without believing that something is seriously amiss at CAI and that Mortenson is at the heart of its troubles, just as he was at the heart of its success. Krakauer was a donor to CAI because he believed in its cause.

Most readers of Three Cups Of Deceit will also be believers and will share his intense disappointment that work that should have been purely noble and uplifting has once again been besmirched by the ugly side of the human ego.

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Only Time Will Tell: Good storytelling

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:16 AM PDT

LET me warn you first: if you like novels with tidy endings, this might not be the book for you. It ends with a huge cliffhanger, because Only Time Will Tell is the first in a five-part series, the Clifton Chronicles, about the life and times of one Harry Clifton.
Born just after World War I, Harry's parentage is in doubt from the moment his mother, Maisie Clifton, discovers she is pregnant. Is he the son of her new husband, former soldier and dock worker Arthur Clifton? Or the result of her afternoon fling with Hugo Barrington, son of the family who owns the company Arthur works at?

While the question of who is Harry's father doesn't matter during his early years, the question of how Arthur dies when Harry is still a baby remains a huge mystery, especially to Harry.

Growing up around the Bristol docks, he is all set to follow in his late dad's footsteps as a dock worker, but destiny has other plans for him. In church, he is discovered to have a beautiful singing voice – a gift that enables him to win a choral scholarship to a private boarding school, where he meets his best friend, Giles Barrington, son of Hugo. Hugo, who might have been involved in Arthur's death, puzzles both his own family and Harry with his cold and unreasonably rude treatment of his son's best friend.

Then, the question of who fathered Harry comes back to haunt everyone involved when Harry falls in love and wants to get married. The fallout from that secret takes us to the start of WWII, and a dramatic (unresolved!) end to the book.

The story is told from the perspective of various people in Harry's life, including Maisie, Hugo, Giles, Harry's mentor and friend Old Jack Tar, and Harry himself. Author Jeffrey Archer alternates between first person accounts and the third person voice, which may sound confusing, but is actually executed in quite a straightforward manner. There's even a change in font to assist readers in differentiating when the story is being told from a character's personal point of view, and when it is being told in the third person.

While I don't see how this technique helps to drive the story forward, it doesn't affect the narrative in a negative manner either, so I can live with it.

Although the time period of the various characters' narratives overlap a lot, Archer has successfully made each character's story a different part of the narrative of Harry's life, providing a way to explain various factors impacting on Harry that he himself would be unaware of.

The supporting characters are well developed and interesting in themselves, particularly the strong and resolute Maisie, who is determined to give Harry the best education possible despite the financial difficulties she faces, and the seemingly eccentric Old Jack Tar, who is much more than meets the eye.

While this is the first time Archer has intentionally set out to write a series – most of his novels are standalones, or started out as standalones, at least – the plot is classic Archer. Fans should not be surprised to see familiar elements from other Archer novels in this book. But excepting the possible turn-off factor of predictability, those who enjoy his style of writing should enjoy the book nonetheless.

I definitely found it much better than the last novel of his I read, False Impressions, and on par with his earlier novels, which I enjoyed.

Recommended for an interesting weekend read, with drama and good storytelling along the way.

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Love’s woes

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:14 AM PDT

The Sweetest Thing
Author: Christina Mandelski
Publisher: EgmontUSA, 336 pages

IN the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she's decorating a cake. Unfortunately, everything else is a complete mess: her mum ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant than looking after her, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable.

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mum will solve all her problems – only her dad's about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed.

Dead Rules
Author: Randy Russell
Publisher: HarperTeen, 384 pages

JANA Webster and Michael Haynes were in love. They were destined to be together forever. But Jana's destiny was fatally flawed. And now she's in Dead School, where Mars Dreamcote lurks in the back of the classroom, with his beguiling blue eyes, mysterious smile, and irresistibly warm touch. But Jana has no room for Mars. She's sure Michael will rush to her side soon.

However, things aren't going according to plan, so Jana decides to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true – no matter what rules she has to break.

Author: Pam Bachorz
Publisher: EgmontUSA, 400 pages

RUBY dreams of escaping the Congregation – escaping from slaver Darwin West and his cruel Overseers; escaping from the backbreaking work of gathering Water; escaping from living as if it is still 1812, the year they were all enslaved.

When Ruby meets Ford, she longs to run away with him to the modern world, where she can live like a normal teenager. But if Ruby leaves, her community is condemned to certain death. She alone possesses the secret ingredient that makes the Water so special – her blood – and it's the one thing that the Congregation cannot live without.

The School For The Insanely Gifted
Author: Dan Elish
Publisher: HarperCollins, 304 pages

Daphna Whispers is insanely gifted. At age two-and-a-half, she composed her first sonata. At age eight, she completed an opera. And now, at 11 and three-quarters, she is orchestrating a piano rhapsody. With a resume like that, it's no wonder Daphna is a student at the prestigious Blatt School for the Insanely Gifted!

But as sixth grade draws to a close, her mind is far from the upcoming "Insanity Cup" competition. She's preoccupied by her mother's disappearance two months ago. Daphna is convinced that her mother knew something and while she hopes to find her, the last thing she expects to uncover is an outrageous secret about the Blatt School. And one insanely shocking secret about herself.

Tumford The Terrible
Author & Illustrator: Nancy Tillman
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, 32 pages

TUMFORD isn't really a terrible cat. He just has a way of finding mischief – like tracking dirt into the house and disrupting fancy parties. But even though he feels bad, he has a hard time saying, "I'm sorry". Will his owners' love for him help Tummy say the magic words?

The Loud Book
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 32 pages

JUST like there are lots of "quiets", there are also lots of "louds", and the gang from The Quiet Book is back to share them with you. The Loud Book compiles loud, kid-friendly noises from morning to night, in a way that is sure to make readers CHEER!

The World Champion Of Staying Awake
Author: Sean Taylor
Illustrator: Jimmy Liao
Publisher: Candlewick, 32 pages

IT'S time for Stella to go to bed. But how can she sleep when Thunderbolt the puppet mouse, and Beanbag Frog are wide awake? And Cherry Pig is shouting, "I'm the world champion of staying awake!"

Luckily Stella is good at thinking up ways to get her toys to sleep – by taking them on a sailing Pillow Ship, a shoebox Midnight Train, and a toy-basket Starship Balloon.

The Boy Who Could Fly
Author: James Norcliffe
Publisher: EgmontUSA, 320 pages

A YOUNG boy lives in an orphanage that is completely surrounded by a thick wall. Every day, he wishes he were free. He wishes he had a new life. And then he meets the loblolly boy, who is strange, mysterious and who promises the young boy that he can teach him how to fly – as he himself can, with his green, feathery wings.

In teaching the boy how to fly, however, the loblolly boy has made an Exchange – he switches places with the orphan.

Now the young boy is free and the loblolly boy is "real". The young boy rejoices in his freedom until he realises the price he has paid and soon sets out to make his own Exchange – but at what cost?

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