Ahad, 7 Ogos 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Vivacious Chris

Posted: 08 Aug 2011 02:05 AM PDT

Beauty queen-turned-actress Chris Tong Bing Yu shares her passion for acting and her outlook on love.

FUN, friendly and fascinatingly enthusiastic about her chosen vocation, Chris Tong Bing Yu can go on about her passion for acting without skipping a beat. It is this attitude which keeps her positively glowing even when she says she has not had much sleep.

It is this vibrant and vivacious persona that her fans love and look forward to experience when they switch on the television to catch her programmes.

Tong, 27, is mindful of fans (her Facebook fanpage to date has chalked up 24,028 likes) as she is aware of people who wait all day to watch her.

"When I asked them about it, they said they don't know whether I act well or not, but they would still tune in to watch me. So, I appreciate them and am very thankful for their support.

"I've received a letter from a fan's mother pleading with me not to have any promotional activities on weekdays so that her daughter will not skip school to attend them."

Going from modelling to acting after winning Miss Malaysia Chinese Cosmos International 2006, the pretty lass who used to win poetry writing competitions in secondary school says she is even looking forward to doing some scriptwriting.

As one who gives her all in whatever she does, the beauty queen-turned-actress prefers to be spontaneous and follow her heart.

She confirmed talk about movie offers, but is not at liberty to reveal much as negotiations are still on-going.

"I don't necessarily have to play the lead. I would be happy as long as it's an interesting role that leaves a deep impression in people's minds and they remember me for it," said Tong who is an artiste with Juita Entertainment.

At a press conference held last week to promote 8TV's The Adjusters 2, Tong shared that it was a great challenge having to film two different series simultaneously.

"I still remember studying the script in detail the day before we started shooting. My parents were deeply concerned because I was suffering from a bout of food poisoning and suggested that I take the day off to recuperate.

"But because I fought so hard for this role, I was prepared to be 100% committed.

"Right now I'm also filming Mediacorp's Code Of Honour, which requires me to cry a lot. So between a very bubbly girl (in The Adjusters 2) and a very sad one (in Code Of Honour), I sometimes feel like I can't switch between them," she frankly admitted.

Apart from Tong, the 13-episode Mandarin suspense thriller also sees singers Rynn Lim and Aric Ho as well as 988 radio deejay Chan Fong, reprising their roles as adjusters. Lim plays Tong's love interest Andy Tan while Ho plays her faithful suitor Wilson Lim. Chan is back as their boss Uncle Ming.

"I'm such a lucky gal to get two handsome guys fighting over me," she said with a laugh, flanked by Lim and Ho who took her lead and pretended to bicker over her.

Although they had only filmed for three days on the set of The Adjuster 2, their easy camaraderie was apparent.

Tong was glad to relive her character for the second season and added that things have changed a lot for her character.

"In season one, I really felt Andy was my boyfriend. But in the new season, somehow the feelings have changed.

"As for Wilson, I feel it is really great for a man who never gives up and hasn't changed in two years," mused Tong, who personally has had a similar experience with suitor who has carried the torch for her for seven long years.

"When he left for America, I told him not to waste anymore time on me as I'm very firm in matters of the heart. I may feel touched by his actions but I won't mistake it for love.

"Previously, I would not have employed personal experience in developing a character. But now, after reading the script, I would look to my own or my friends' experiences to make my character more convincing."

Additionally, the second season also introduces newcomers Henley Hii (Project Superstar Malaysia Season Two winner) and Angie Seow (I Wanna Be A Model Season Two) who play an adjuster and an insurance agent, respectively.

"Henley joined us for this new season and I was really glad to work with him again. We last collaborated in A Time To Embrace, where we grew very close while working together on the set. We're just like brother and sister now, and can easily communicate with just a glance.

"In him, I see myself when I first started in the industry, full of passion and enthusiasm. It is such a wonderful feeling, just watching him work."

The Adjusters 2 will premiere on 8TV on Oct 2 at 8.30pm.

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Selena Gomez wins 5 trophies at Teen Choice Awards

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 06:13 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP): Selena Gomez conjured five wins at the Teen Choice Awards. The star of "Wizards of Waverly Place" was selected as choice TV actress, female hottie and music group with her band The Scene.

The group also was awarded the choice single trophy for "Who Says" and love song for "Love You Like a Love Song," which the 19-year-old actress-singer performed at Sunday's ceremony at Universal Studios Hollywood's Gibson Amphitheatre.

"This is for all of you guys," Gomez told the screeching crowd. "This isn't mine."

Other early winners included Ellen DeGeneres as choice comedian, Kellan Lutz and Ashley Greene from "The Twilight Saga" as choice scene movie stealers and Ashton Kutcher as choice romantic comedy movie actor for "No Strings Attached."

Before leading the crowd in a sing-along of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," Kutcher provided the crowd with some topical advice.

"Don't ever charge anything on a credit card if you don't already have the money in the bank to pay for it," he said.

Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am kicked off the fan-favorite ceremony, which honors celebrities in TV, film, music and sports.

Others expected to sail away with surfboard-shaped trophies Sunday include multiple nominees like "The Vampire Diaries," "Pretty Little Liars" and Taylor Swift, who will be honoured with the Ultimate Choice Award.

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The Star Online: World Updates

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Saudi pulls ambassador from Syria, denounces violence

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 08:50 PM PDT

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah demanded an end to the bloodshed in Syria on Monday and recalled his country's ambassador from Damascus, in a rare case of one of the Arab world's most powerful leaders intervening against another.

Military vehicles are transported on the highway from Talbiseh in Homs towards Hama in this still image taken from video posted on a social media website on August 4, 2011. (REUTERS/Social media website via Reuters TV)

It was the sharpest criticism the oil giant -- an absolute monarchy that bans political opposition -- has directed against any Arab state since a wave of protests roiled the Middle East and toppled autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Saudi statement came with all the weight of the king's personal authority, and follows similar statements since Saturday from the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

"What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia," he said in a written statement read out on Al Arabiya satellite television.

Events in Syria had "nothing to do with religion, or values, or ethics," the king said.

In Washington, a U.S. State Department official said the king's statement was a strong signal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

"This is another clear sign that the international community, including Syria's neighbors, are repulsed by the brutal actions of the Syrian government and will continue to stand with the people of Syria," the official said.

A former U.S. government official with knowledge of the region said the Saudi king likely went public to press concerns that had been conveyed privately.

"I think he did it on his own because the private messages were clearly being ignored," the former official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A crackdown by Assad against protests has become one of the most violent episodes in the wave of unrest sweeping through the Arab world this year.

On Sunday, activists said Syrian troops with tanks had launched an assault on the city of Deir al-Zor in the east of the country, killing dozens. The past week has seen scores of people killed in a siege of Hama, a city where Assad's father launched a crackdown nearly 30 years ago, killing thousands.

Assad's government says it is fighting against criminals and armed extremists who have provoked violence by attacking its troops. Activists and Western countries say Assad's forces have attacked peaceful protesters.

"Syria should think wisely before it's too late and issue and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms," the Saudi king said.

"Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss."


Earlier on Sunday, the Arab League, in a rare response to the escalating bloodshed in Syria, called on authorities there to stop acts of violence against civilians.

Although several Arab states have joined the West in opposing Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, most of the region's rulers have been cautious about criticising other Arab leaders during the wave of protests this year.

The other regional heavyweight, Turkey, whose foreign minister is due in Damascus on Tuesday, has been voicing its disapproval for months.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the ongoing violence and security operations in Syria in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday, the State Department said.

Clinton discussed the U.S. position that Syria must immediately return its military to barracks and release all prisoners of concern and asked Davutoglu to "reinforce these messages" with the Syrian government, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Saudi Arabia had maintained its silence regarding Syria despite deep antagonism over the contest for regional hegemony with Shi'ite Iran, one of Syria's only allies and chief patron of Hezbollah, the Shi'ite militia and political movement to which Saudi Arabia's allies have lost influence in Lebanon.

Saudi columnist Hussein Shobokshi said the king's address placed the responsibility for the bloodshed squarely on Syria's ruling circle, and that recalling the Saudi ambassador could pave the way for other states to wash their hands of Assad.

"This will open up the gate for other countries to follow suit, Islamic and Arab," he said.

"I think these will ignite the spirit of protesters and give them hope that the international, Saudi and Islamic, Arab communities are firmly behind them. It will give them hope that victory is in sight."

"I do not think that the Syrian government's position is reversible. I think it is doomed and we should all now start dealing with a post-Assad reality."

Shortly after the address, Al Arabiya reported Kuwaiti parliamentarians called on members of the GCC -- a bloc of resource-rich monarchies in which Saudi influence is extensive -- to recall ambassadors from Damascus.

The channel provided no further details immediately.

King Abdullah sent Saudi troops in March to help neighbouring monarchy Bahrain put down anti-government protests, and Saudi officials have criticised the decision to put Egypt's ousted leader Hosni Mubarak on trial.

Saudi Arabia has acted as a mediator in neighbouring Yemen, and is hosting its President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who went there for medical treatment after being wounded in a bomb attack when protests against his rule turned into open conflict.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelatti in Cairo and Asma Alsharif in Jeddah; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Syria tanks storm eastern city, kill 50 - residents

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 08:50 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian tanks stormed a city in the east of the country on Sunday, crushing makeshift barricades, opening fire and seizing the central square, residents said, in a fresh crackdown that activists said killed dozens of civilians.

The assault on the provincial capital Deir al-Zor comes a week after tanks stormed the city of Hama, where activists say scores have been killed in an ongoing siege to crush five-months of protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

"Early this morning columns of army tanks and bulldozers, under cover of heavy rounds of gunfire, stormed into the western and northern entrances of the city and dismantled barricades set up by residents," a Deir al-Zor resident said.

"A dozen tanks are taking position in the main square in Jubaila market in the northern sector of Deir al-Zor," the resident, who gave his name as Abu Bakr, said by telephone.

The government denied the Deir al-Zor assault had taken place. The official state news agency said "not a single tank has entered Deir al-Zor" and reports of tanks in the city were "the work of provocateur satellite channels". Syria has barred most journalists, making it hard to confirm events.

The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Committee said 50 people had been killed in Deir al-Zor on Sunday and at least 13 had been killed in a separate, tank-led assault on villages in the central Houla Plain, near the city of Homs.

"The numbers of casualties are escalating by the hour," activist Suhair al-Atassi, a member of the Coordinating Union, said by phone from Damascus.

Syrian authorities say they are fighting armed saboteurs who have provoked violence by attacking the security forces. Rights groups and Western states say Assad's forces have repeatedly fired on peaceful demonstrators to crush an uprising.

Activists say government troops have killed at least 1,600 civilians in five months of an increasingly violent crackdown. The government says gunmen have killed more than 500 members of the security forces.

The Arab League, in a rare response to the escalating bloodshed, joined the international wave of criticism on Sunday, calling on authorities to stop acts of violence against protesters, the Qatar News Agency reported.

Assad defended the army's campaign.

"Dealing with outlaws and convicts who stage highway robbery and seal off cities and terrorise the population is a national duty," state news agency SANA quoted him as telling Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.

Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Syria, said in an interview with "ABC This Week" that the assault on Hama was an "atrocity" but that residents told him they did not want outside military intervention when he visited the city last month.


TAKE A LOOK - Unrest in Syria [ID:nLDE75M19S]

Factbox on Hama [ID:nL6E7I516F]

Timeline of protests, crackdown [ID:nL6E7IV01X]

Analysis on Syrian army [ID:nL6E7J10X9]

Graphic on violence http://link.reuters.com/muw82s


An Assad adviser said neighbouring Turkey, which condemned the attack on Hama as an atrocity, should not meddle in Syrian affairs, and warned Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu he would get a frosty reception when he visits Damascus on Tuesday.

Cairo-based activist Ammar Qurabi said 42 people were killed in Deir al-Zor and 17 in Houla. Another 28 were killed overnight, he said, including eight in the northern province of Idlib after protests at evening prayers.


The military assault on Deir al-Zor, about 400 km (250 miles) north-east of Damascus, was launched a day after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Assad he was alarmed by the escalating violence and demanded he rein in the army.

Ban "urged the president to stop the use of military force against civilians immediately," the U.N.'s media office said.

Residents of Deir al-Zor, situated on the Euphrates river in a province bordering Iraq's Sunni heartland, had been bracing for an assault on their city. An Internet video last week showed a tribal meeting discussing preparations for armed resistance to any military attack.

In the past, authorities allowed local tribes to arm as a counterweight to a Kurdish population further northeast.

But ties between Assad's minority Alawite rule and the Sunni Muslim province deteriorated after years of water shortages decimated agriculture and led to the internal displacement of up to a million people.

Together with Hama, Deir al-Zor became the centre of the largest demonstrations against Assad family rule.

Deir al-Zor resident Abu Bakr, from the Jubaila area which has seen some of the largest anti-Assad demonstrations in recent weeks, said mosque loudspeakers were blaring "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) on Sunday.

Another resident said tanks and armoured personnel carriers had deployed in the centre of town.

"Shells are now hitting al-Joura district," he said, the sound of machinegun and tank fire echoing in the background. "No one dares go out in the street near the main square."


Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who forged close ties with Assad but has been sharply critical of the crackdown, said his foreign minister, Davutoglu, would visit Damascus on Tuesday. "Our message will be decisively delivered," he said.

Assad's adviser Bouthaina Shaaban criticised Ankara for failing to condemn "the savage murders of civilians and military men by armed terrorist groups".

"If...Davutoglu is coming to Syria to deliver a decisive message, then he will hear even more decisive words in relation to Turkey's position," Shaaban said.

An official source also criticised a statement by Gulf Arab states who broke months of silence on Saturday to express concern about over the violence in Syria. The source, quoted by SANA, said the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council had ignored the "killing and sabotage carried out by armed groups".

State television broadcast footage of weapons it said were seized at the border with Lebanon. SANA also quoted an official source saying 13 mutilated bodies of members of the security forces were found in the Orontes River near Hama on Saturday and that two soldiers were killed near Homs.

In Hama, troops stormed houses and arrested dozens of people as tanks and armoured vehicles deployed throughout the city, residents said, after a week-long assault which activists say killed at least 130 people. One group put the toll at more than 300 civilians.

Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, crushed an armed Islamist uprising in Hama nearly 30 years ago, killing many thousands of people and razing parts of the city's old quarter to the ground.

(Writing and additional reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Louise Ireland)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Libya rebels say they hold gains south of capital

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 08:50 PM PDT

NALUT, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebels said on Sunday they were firmly in control of the town of Bir al-Ghanam, a staging post about 80 km (50 miles) south of Tripoli, rejecting a government assertion they had been pushed back.

Libyan rebel fighters with the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade gesture after a live firing exercise during a graduation event near Nalut in western Libya, August 6, 2011. (REUTERS/Bob Strong)

A small settlement in the desert, Bir al-Ghanam is also the closest point the rebels have come to Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold in the capital, lending it a strategic role in the rebels' six-month campaign to end Gaddafi's rule.

Rebel commanders in the region said on Saturday they had seized control of Bir al-Ghanam in an offensive in which four anti-Gaddafi fighters had died.

Taking the town -- which lies on a highway leading north to the Mediterranean coast and on to Tripoli -- would break weeks of stalemate during which rebels have been unable to make big advances despite NATO air strikes on government forces.

Graphics, click http://r.reuters.com/nym77r and http://link.reuters.com/jav62s

Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi said on Sunday that rebels, under NATO air cover, had seized Bir al-Ghanam temporarily but they had been driven out by local volunteers and Libyan forces.

"This is exactly what happened in Bir al-Ghanam, which is back in the hands of the honorable and brave local tribes ... and under the legitimate control of the government of Libya," he told a news conference in Tripoli.

But a local commander rejected that version of events.

"Gaddafi is a liar because Bir al-Ghanam is under our control," Colonel Juma Ibrahim, a rebel commander from the nearby town of Zintan, told Reuters.

"We are still in the same position we were yesterday."

He said in the past 24 hours rebel forces had, in fact, pushed about 10 km (6 miles) northeast of Bir al-Ghanam, and were now planning to push towards the coastal town of Zawiyah.

Zawiyah, which lies 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, has been the scene of two uprisings which were smashed by Gaddafi's security forces. A large contingent of the rebels fighting around Bir al-Ghanam are from Zawiyah.

It was not immediately possible to verify independently who was in control of Bir al-Ghanam.


Most analysts say Gaddafi will eventually be forced to relinquish power if NATO states and their rebel allies maintain the pressure on him by starving him of weapons, fuel and cash and attacking his forces.

However, some alliance members are unsettled by how long the Libyan campaign is dragging on and how much it is costing, especially at a time of economic uncertainty. If NATO wavers, this could give Gaddafi an opportunity to hold on to power.

For now though, there is no sign of a let-up in the air campaign, led by French and British warplanes. A Reuters reporter in Tripoli said there were multiple strikes overnight in the southeast of the city.

After the initial explosions, there were smaller blasts on the ground and flames shooting into the air, suggesting the target contained highly flammable material.

Britain said on Saturday -- while rebels were attacking Bir al-Ghanam -- its aircraft had been in the area and attacked two ammunitions stores, a military headquarters and a position supporting government rocket launchers.

In a separate operation on Sunday, British Apache attack helicopters took off from a warship in the Mediterranean Sea and fired Hellfire missiles at military vehicles in Al-Watyah, the site of a government air base 170 km south-west of Tripoli, spokesman Major General Nick Pope said in a statement.


Potentially adding to pressure on Gaddafi, Tripoli has been experiencing power shortages in the past few days and these have been growing worse.

Libyan state television appealed on Sunday to people to conserve energy by switching off air conditioners in mosques and offices when they are not in use.

Because of the blackouts, many residents have no air conditioning during the peak summer heat and no refrigeration as they prepare for evening meals during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Some areas of the Libyan capital are getting as little as four hours of power a day, residents said this week.

Mohamed Abu Ajeela Rashid, a former Libyan health minister who is now a senior hospital doctor, said power was cut while he was performing surgery. He said he had to complete the operation by the light of his cell phone.

Libyan government officials have said the problems will be fixed within the next few days. They blame NATO for attacking electricity lines, but an official with the alliance denied there had been any such strikes.

In eastern Libya, where rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces are fighting along another front, rebel commanders said they were making a big push to capture the coastal oil town of Brega, about 780 km from Tripoli.

But they said progress was slow because Gaddafi's forces had laid minefields around the town. "We don't want to lose anybody so we're moving slowly but surely," said rebel spokesman Mohammad Zawawi.

Pope Benedict, giving his Sunday blessing from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo near Rome, appealed for an end to violence in the Middle East.

"My thoughts also go to Libya, where the use of arms has not resolved the situation," he said.

"I urge the international organisations and those with political and military responsibilities to relaunch the search for a peace plan for the country with conviction and determination, through talks and constructive dialogue."

(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan in Tripoli, Hamid Ould Ahmed and Christian Lowe in Algiers, Robert Birsel in Benghazi, Libya, Michael Holden in London and Deepa Babington in Rome; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Sophie Hares)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Asyraf joins Ivan in the main draw of the Australian Open

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 06:48 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Two-time Asian Junior champion Ivan Yuen pulled off one of the biggest wins of his career to qualify for the main draw of the Australian Open in Canberra yesterday.

The 21-year-old Ivan, ranked 121st in the world, was up against Kiwi national champion and world No. 59 Campbell Grayson in the second qualifying round.

Despite playing poorly in the past few tournaments, including at the CIMB Malaysian Open, Ivan served a reminder as to why he was once regarded as the top junior in Asia by beating Grayson 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8.

It was also a good day at the office for national No. 4 Mohd Asyraf Azan, who made it to the main round after beating Austrian Aqeel Rehman 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7.

But the day certainly belonged to Ivan, who became the only player out of the top 100 rankings in the world to have made it to the main draw.

"It's a very good win for me because it will give me precious ranking points which I really need," said Ivan.

"This is my first time playing in the Australian Open and I am happy to have made the main draw.

"I wasn't playing well at all in the past few tournaments but I'm doing well in this tournament and my performance in the qualifying rounds are certainly prove of that."

The Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) student, however, has a mountain to climb in the first round as he will be up against world No. 2 Ramy Ashour.

Asyraf, meanwhile, stands a good chance to get into the second round as he faces fellow qualifier and Malaysian Open semi-finalist Alan Clyne of Scotland in the first round.

Clyne overcame local hope Rex Hedrick 11-13, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5.

National No. 2 Ong Beng Hee and No. 3 Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan look to have fairly easy paths into the second round.

Beng Hee will face Kiwi veteran Martin Knight while Asian champion Nafiizwan will take on Dick Lau of Hong Kong.

National champion Mohd Azlan Iskandar, though, is drawn to play former world No. 1 David Palmer in the first round.

The qualifying rounds for the women's event will only begin today, but all four Malaysians – Nicol David, Low Wee Wern, Delia Arnold and Siti Munirah Jusoh – are already in the main draw and will only begin their campaign tomorrow.

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Decha marks return from injury with superb wins in Chennai

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 06:47 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Yamaha Thailand Racing's Decha Kraisart scored emphatic victories in Round 3 of the SuperSports 600cc class in the Petronas Asia Road Racing Championships at the Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai, India, yesterday.

The wins capped a fine return to racing after he missed the previous round due to injury.

The 16-lap Race 1 was cut short after it was red-flagged on the 11th lap due to the crash between Michael Edward Jones of Petronas Syntium Moto Yamaha Raceline and Decha,

The Thai, who was leading at that time, was declared the winner based on the ninth lap standings with a total time of 15:49.209.

Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman of Boon Siew Honda Racing took second spot in 15:49.505 while compatriot Mohd Zamri Baba was third in 15:49.910.

Race 2 saw defending champion Decha and Azlan trading blows to take the lead before the Malaysian took charge in the 12th lap. However, Azlan was involved a crash in the 14th lap and that ended his hopes of a podium finish. He went on to finish the race in 14th spot.

The crash allowed Decha to resume superiority at the front and to take the chequered flag ahead of Zamri and Aaron Morris of Yamaha Indonesia Racing.

"I feel good on my machine but it definitely wasn't a stroll in a park. It was a thinking game as I needed to observe Zamri's and Azlan's weak points as well as deciding the right time to make my manoeuvring move," said Decha.

In the Underbone 115cc category, Rafid Topan Sucipto was simply unstoppable, winning both races.

In Race 1, the Yamaha CKJ TJM Racing rider capitalised on his pole position to complete the 10-lap race in 20:11.485 – 8.190 seconds ahead of Hadi Wijaya of Kawasaki NHK Rextor Manual Tech.

Hadi settled for second in 20:19.675 while Mohd Ramdan Mohd Rosli (Petronas Syntium Yamaha Moto AHM) was third in 20:22.058.

Race 2 saw Rafid produced another perfect ride to win by 6.886 seconds ahead of Hadi (20:11.196).

Hadi again finished second in 20:18.082 while Ahmad Afif Amran of Yamaha CKJ TJM was third in 20:23.468.

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Joo-bong: Japan will be happy if two make it to the semi-finals

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 06:37 PM PDT

JAPAN have one of the biggest contingents at the World Championships but chief coach Park Joo-bong will be happy with at least two semi-finallists.

Joo-bong said their goal was to equal the feat they achieved at the 2007 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur.

"We have not been hitting the mark for the last four years and it will be good if we can repeat what we achieved in 2007. That was Japan's best outing in many years," said Joo-bong.

Joo-bong said that their best chance was in the women's doubles, where Japan have four pairs, including world No. 2 Miyuki Maeda-Satoko Suetsuna and world No. 4 Mizuki Fujii-Reika Kakiiwa.

"China are still the favourite in this event. But we hope our girls can make at least the semi-finals," Joo-bong said.

Japan's only title in the world series came through the women's doubles pair of Etsuko Toganoo-Emiko Ueno in 1977.

In the men's singles, Joo-bong said that Sho Sasaki, who defeated China's Lin Dan in the second round of Indonesian Open and won the US Open two weeks ago, was shaping up well.

"We had a 10-day centralised camp and Sasaki has shown good progress. We are happy with his form and he is quite on par with Kenichi Tago," said Joo-bong.

Sasaki is in the same quarter with South Korean Lee Hyun-il and two China players – Lin Dan and Du Pengyu.

Japan's trumpcard in the women's singles is Eriko Hirose, if she is good form. As for their men's doubles challenge, it's hard to see them going far after getting a tough draw.

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The Star Online: Business

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Senators say cooperation needed post-S&P downgrade

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 05:07 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: Two senators and former presidential candidates say Standard & Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating speaks to the need for more bipartisan compromise - but they also say the blame lay with the other party.

John Kerry was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, and John McCain was the Republican nominee in 2008.

Appearing Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Kerry called S&P's decision a "tea party downgrade." The Massachusetts Democrat says he believes that tea party supporters in the House are holding up progress.

McCain says he too would like to see more cooperation, but the Arizona Republican says President Barack Obama is at fault. McCain says the president failed to lead and did not present a clear plan during the debt-ceiling debate. - AP

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S&P executive: 1 in 3 chance of future downgrade

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 05:05 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: A top political adviser to President Barack Obama blamed the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating on tea party Republicans, whom he said were unwilling to compromise on how to reduce the federal debt.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the decision by the Standard & Poor's credit agency to downgrade the U.S. from AAA to AA+ for the first time was strongly influenced by weeks of standoff between Democrats and Republicans over the debt.

Axelrod called the action "a tea party downgrade" and says it's clearly on the backs of lawmakers who were willing to see the country default to get their way.

Tea party activists are a loose-knit coalition of community groups made up of people with conserative views; many of the movement's candidates oppose tax increases and back balanced budget amendments.

Axelrod also criticized Republican presidential candidates for not speaking up in favor of compromise.

Earlier, an S&P official said there is a 1 in 3 chance that the U.S. credit rating could be downgraded another notch if conditions erode over the next six to 24 months.

The credit rating agency's managing director, John Chambers, told ABC's "This Week" that if the fiscal position of the U.S. deteriorates further, or if political gridlock tightens even more, a further downgrade is possible.

Chambers also said that it would take "stabilization and eventual decline" of the federal debt as a share of the economy as well as more consensus in Washington for the U.S. to win back a top rating.

S&P downgraded the U.S. rating Friday, from AAA to AA+, for the first time.

Meanwhile, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he expects the stock market slide to continue in the wake of a decision by S&P to downgrade the U.S. credit rating.

Appearing Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Greenspan said markets will take time to bottom out and that he expects a negative reaction on Monday to the S&P action.

But Greenspan also said he doesn't see any risk in investing in the United States and says that S&P's downgrade won't change that.

The former Fed chairman said the downgrade "hit a nerve" and is damaging to the psyche of the country. But he said he can't foresee a scenario in which the U.S. will default on its debts. - AP

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Iran's oil minister: Replace foreign oil companies

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 05:03 PM PDT

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran's new oil minister says he wants the Revolutionary Guard's economic conglomerate to replace foreign gas and oil companies, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The minister, Rostam Qasemi, had been the chief of the economic conglomerate until his appointment last week to the government post.

The economic conglomerate, Khatam-ol-Anbiya, is the Revolutionary Guard's most important economic unit and is the largest contractor of government projects including major oil and gas projects.

"Khatam-ol-Anbiya ... should convert to a successor to foreign big companies," Qasemi said, according to IRNA.

His remark is seen as a reaction to the pressure that sanctions are putting on foreign companies working in Iran. Several oil companies, including Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell, have withdrawn from the country over the past years. Some Chinese and Indian companies are still working there.

Qasemi said Khatam-ol-Anbia should be improved and said he still feels that he is still working for the Guard.

"I am assigned to the Oil Ministry, but I am obsessed by the Guards," he said, according to IRNA.

Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, chief of the Guards, also sought a bigger economic role for the unit.

"The Guards should have a pioneer role in the economic fronts in the country," Jafari said, according to the semiofficial Mehr news agency. "There is a special expectation from the Oil Ministry. The sources should be spent for infrastructure projects."

Khatam-ol-Anbiya has some $25 billion contracts in various oil and gas projects in Iran.

The United States accuses Khatam-ol-Anbiya of funneling revenues from its construction business back into Iran's nuclear program, which Washington suspects aims to develop atomic weapons.

Tehran denies Western allegations that it is pursuing nuclear weapons and says its program is for peaceful purposes such as power generation.

Iran is in need of both foreign investment and technology to upgrade its vital oil industry, which represents some 80 percent of its foreign revenue.

Qasemi said Saturday that Iran will need some $40 billion in the current year to develop oil and gas fields. - AP

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf


Posted: 07 Aug 2011 12:06 AM PDT

FOR week ending July 31, 2011:


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

2. Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story Of His Trip To Heaven And Back by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent

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

4. A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard

5. Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock by Alan Shadrake

6. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

7. At Home: A Short History Of Private Life by Bill Bryson

8. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

9. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink

10. How To Think Like Einstein: Simple Ways To Break The Rules And Discover Your Hidden Genius by Scott Thorpe


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

2. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

3. Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett

4. A Game Of Thrones: A Song Of Ice And Fire: Book One (movie tie-in) by George R.R. Martin

5. The Confession by John Grisham

6. The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

7. One Day (movie tie-in) by David Nicholls

8. Luka And The Fire Of Life by Salman Rushdie

9. Swimming Pool Sunday by Madeleine Wickham

10. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

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

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An unusual connection

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 12:05 AM PDT

A collection by writers with dyslexia aims to show that the ailment makes one different, not 'less'.

FORGOTTEN Letters is an anthology of poems, letters and essays by popular and critically acclaimed dyslexic writers. It is collected and produced by RASP Books (r-a-s-p.co.uk), an independent publishing initiative that specialises in promoting and publishing dyslexic writers and aims "to (re)discover and promote writers who write differently", "raise awareness of dyslexia" and explore dyslexia as a difference, not as a problem.

In a recent interview conducted via Gtalk, anthology editor Naomi Folb said: "I think that people assume you have a really hard time and that you find everything very difficult, whereas I don't see dyslexia in this way. For me it is just a way of thinking."

Folb, 32, herself dyslexic, is currently based in Ã…rhus, Denmark, where she is a PhD student, researching dyslexia.

"For my degree, I have interviewed writers and journalists, and also mathematicians and engineers because I want to know how dyslexia is 'used' in different professions and how dyslexics perceive dyslexia, in different contexts," she said, adding that she notices that what dyslexics have in common is the ability to "generate ideas quickly" and "not follow conventions".

Folb said the work that will be published in Forgotten Letters reflects the way dyslexics communicate ideas and emotions through words. "It is the book I always wished I could have had. It was the book that didn't exist and because of that, I didn't know I was not 'less'."

RASP has enlisted the help of international funding platform IndieGoGo to raise money needed to produce thebook. The campaign developed for Forgotten Letters was launched about a month ago with the goal of raising US$7,000 (RM 20,590). As this article was being written about two weeks ago, Just US$795 (RM2,338) had been raised.

Folb is not worried about not reaching the goal. "If people who have promised to give do it, we will be fine," she said. However, the book will be published regardless.

"If we do not raise the money we will make fewer books, which is a shame, because it is amazing – even if I say so myself! I would like to make 1,000 books but I would also like each book to be beautifully made. The design is really important.

"I feel that dyslexics are normally designed things which are patronising and childish. There is a lot of 'kiddie' stuff and people forget that there are dyslexic adults who don't want cartoon lions on their books.

"A child dyslexic will become an adult dyslexic. This book is for the dyslexic adult."

Forgotten Letters grew out of Folb's desire to "make dyslexic books". She said: "I'd been doing this in different ways on small publications for different events. So then I thought that I wanted to create a 'proper' book – one with an ISBN, and is printed rather than photocopied, or made with tracing paper, or run off an office printer.

"I started asking people for poems and using the Internet, and also contacted a friend who runs an event for dyslexic playwrights. She asked her poets who are dyslexic and I decided to contact published authors, who have dyslexia, to find out if they would be interested. That is how it started really."

Authors who have contributed to the anthology include award-winning poet and novelist Benjamin Zephaniah; Billy Childish, co-founder of the Stuckism Art Movement; children's writer and illustrator Sally Gardner; National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon; and Philip Schultz, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

Folb said that it was an amazing experience connecting with these writers.

"These are people whose stories you read and whose sentiments stay with you and become part of your philosophy, part of the fabric of your world.

"When I got to tell these writers why I wanted their work and when they said it meant something to them to participate in a project that raised awareness about dyslexia, it brought me back to the meaning of the project – it's about connecting with people."

If you wish to support the Forgotten Letters project, visit indiegogo.com/Forgotten-Letters.

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The write therapy

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 12:02 AM PDT

Mo Hayder's spine-tingling crime novels help her to resolve her own fears.

BRITISH thriller writer Mo Hayder says her gruesome and gory tales help her deal with the darkness in her own mind.

"I don't know what other writers are like, but I'm very unsettled in my head," the 50-year-old says over the telephone from her home in the west of England. "My books are a way of metabolising my fears."

Her warm and confiding tones belie her reputation as the queen of savage crime fiction. Her first novel, Birdman (2000), opened with grim multiple murders that led to comparisons with Thomas Harris' thriller about a sociopathic cannibal, Silence Of The Lambs.

Birdman hit British bestseller lists, a precedent followed by all seven succeeding novels. Her body of work has been applauded by reviewers from The New York Times to France's Le Point weekly news magazine, who hail both her literary polish and spine-chilling plots.

Last month Hayder was named winner of the 2011 CWA Dagger in the Library, at the CWA Awards ceremony during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, northern England. The prize is £1,500 (RM7,500), plus £300 (RM1,500) to a participating library's readers' group.

The judges praised her "twisting, hard-hitting crime novels (that have) a haunting emotional pull on the reader", adding that "damaged detective Jack Caffery and police diver Flea Marley are one of the best pairings in current crime writing."

But Hayder says that none of her books, including the eighth and latest serial killer-fest, Hanging Hill, are as horrifying as the true tales she hears from her friends in London's murder squad. Her matter-of-fact statement is hard to believe, given that each new story outdoes the last in inventive violence. At least, it is never gratuitous.

Last year's Gone was a gut-wrenching tale of child abduction, preying on the author's own deepest fear – she has a nine-year-old daughter – while Hanging Hill (Bantam), on its way to British bookstores, is about sexual predators targeting teenage girls and has a villain guaranteed to make readers whimper.

Hayder's own life has had plenty of drama, too – mostly, she confesses, driven by a Freudian "mortido" or death instinct. At 15, she left school, exchanging life at English crime writer Ruth Rendell's Essex alma mater Loughton County High for the thrill of working in seedy London pubs.

Part of this was rebellion against the restrictions imposed by her scientist father and teacher mother.

"We weren't allowed to read crime novels in our house, they weren't literature," she recalls. "My parents tried very hard to shelter me. I felt very cut off from society. We had no TV. You feel like an alien."

She travelled to exotic lands such as Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and also the United States, where the family had lived for some time in her childhood.

"I did everything. I worked as a hostess in a club in Tokyo, I worked in a bar, picked up jobs on film sets in Los Angeles. I did anything that would keep me moving around."

She easily admits to "years of psychiatric problems" which manifest in manic relocation.

"I'm a professional nomad. I'm 50 this year and I've moved house 32 times. I've just never been able to settle down."

Among the places she has been most comfortable in is Japan, where she spent two years at the height of the bubble economy. As a bar hostess in 1989, she recalls commanding a high salary as the only Caucasian in the outfit and being treated to dazzling displays of wealth such as "gold leaf on cakes, gold leaf on sake".

Her customers were perfect gentlemen, she adds. "People think it was very shocking, but it was very tame. Nothing sexual, it was all very, very proper, just Japanese men and women relaxing after work."

For the past 16 years, she has lived in Britain, though in various homes, and now her child keeps her grounded.

Describing herself as "a typical English mum", she politely declines to speak more about her family and partner. In fact, the interview begins just after she has managed a crisis at her daughter's sleepover party – one guest had fallen ill.

She credits her time in Asia for helping her "own" her dark side and inspiring her to write on her return to England. It was almost therapeutic, she says. "There's a constant questioning in my head and that's one of the reasons I dig inside."

Hayder first tried her hand at literary fiction and failed.

"Every time I tried to write something literary, someone ended up getting murdered," she recalls with a laugh. "Happily, crime fiction in the United Kingdom coincides with literary fiction – how many different novels can you write under this genre?"

Knowing little about police procedure and determined to get her facts right, she approached the London Metropolitan Police Service, keen to speak with the murder squad.

"I was very polite and very English and wrote them a letter. At first, they were very suspicious of me and didn't think I could handle what they were going to talk about. Now I've built up a very good network of contacts. There's pretty much nothing I can't ask."

Thanks to this insider track, she has been taken up in police helicopters, where she became airsick. She has flirted with death while quarry-diving for research.

Through her contacts, she learnt that her one-time neighbour in London was responsible for a brutal crime spree 25 years ago – he preyed on older victims, breaking into their homes to rob and viciously assault them.

Eight crime novels have not inured her to revelations like this. "I haven't lost my ability to be scared or that capacity to be repelled or shocked by what happens in real life," she says. "I'm quite glad of that." – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

'Glee' creators are scaring up a 'Horror Story'

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 04:58 PM PDT

BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) - As a child, Ryan Murphy's grandmother forced him to watch the daytime horror soap "Dark Shadows." She did it to toughen him up.

Murphy, whose credits include "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee," is now the co-creator of an upcoming FX series, "American Horror Story." It stars Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton.

"American Horror Story" isn't so much about horror as about marriage and infidelity, Murphy told reporters on Saturday during a session of the Television Critics Association conference.

But series co-creator Brad Falchuk said both he and Murphy are obsessed with the horror genre. High on their list: "Don't Look Now," "The Shining" and "Jaws."

"American Horror Story" premieres Oct. 5.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Cameron Highlands landslide: 1 dead, many buried (as at 11.30pm)

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 08:26 AM PDT

Published: Sunday August 7, 2011 MYT 8:27:00 PM
Updated: Sunday August 7, 2011 MYT 11:26:19 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: A woman is dead and three people critically injured after a landslide at 5.45pm on Sunday toppled six houses at the Sungai Ruil orang asli village in Cameron Highlands

More are believed buried in the mud.

"The the three injured and the body of the woman have been sent to the Sultanah Hajjah Kalsom Hospital in Tanah Rata," said a spokesman at the Cameron Highlands Police Headquarters.

Hundreds of rescue personnel - police, firemen and Civil Defence Department personnel - are searching the hilly area for victims, Bernama reported.

Cameron Highlands MP Datuk S.K. Devamany said there might be eight to 10 people trapped in the rubble.

"The Orang Asli leader has informed us that he believes that the residents in those houses are trapped in the buried houses," he said at the scene.

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Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Sabah to have top-notch cardiac centre

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 05:14 AM PDT

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will have a heart surgery centre equipped with sophisticated equipment on par with the National Heart Institute when the cardiac services unit at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital (HQE II) is fully operational at the end of this month.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the HQE II started a heart surgery service in April and at the end of this month, it would have another operation unit costing about RM5mil.

"This is a huge achievement and its good news for Kota Kinabalu residents, in particular, and the people of Sabah, in general, as they are getting top-notch facilities," he told reporters after inspecting the upgrading of HQE II in Damai Luyang here on Sunday.

Liow also announced an additional allocation of RM3mil to tide over the costs of services at the heart surgery centre, including analysis and diagnosis on heart related ailments.

He said the new heart surgery centre was part of the HQE II improvements besides upgrading of car parks, elevators and structures from levels 6 to 8 costing about RM76mil.

When completed, the number of beds for patients at the hospital will increase from 130 to 384 beds besides the 71 beds, which are rented to a private hospital, Sabah Medical Centre, he added. - Bernama

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Share swap deal: AirAsia's Fernandes to gain 20% stake in MAS

Posted: 07 Aug 2011 04:45 AM PDT

*Khazanah clarified Sunday that it will remain the biggest shareholder in Malaysia Airlines (MAS). See media statements from Khazanah and AirAsia below.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia will swap shares in a surprise deal which will see Tan Sri Tony Fernandes becoming the single biggest shareholder.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which owns over 69% of MAS, is said to have concluded negotiations with Fernandes to come up with a deal to save the national carrier.

Sources said the deal, which was struck last week after negotiations over the past year, became urgent after MAS' poor showing in the last two quarters.

Fernandes is set to get 20% of MAS equity under the deal that is to be signed next week, with some sources saying it has already received the Government's approval and could be inked by tomorrow.

Industry players expressed surprise at the deal because of past animosity between the management of the two airlines.

Those who were aware of the negotiations were also surprised at the speed at which it was concluded.

At present, Khazanah, a strategic investment company, holds about 69% stake in MAS, and under the deal with Tune Air Sdn Bhd, it will get a similar stake in AirAsia. Fernandes and his co-founder partner Datuk Kamarudin Meranun hold 26.28% in the world's biggest budget airline.

Fernandes declined to comment when asked about the deal.

Insiders in both airlines confirmed that the negotiations concentrated on the synergy such a share swap would bring.

First, there will be rationalising of routes. Between them, the two airlines cover most of the lucrative routes from Asia to Europe.

Second, when they are seen as a single unit, their bargaining power with airports and aircraft manufacturers will double, said a source close to the deal.

He pointed to the recent move to merge SapuraCrest Petroleum and Kencana Petro-leum via a share swap as an example for the AirAsia-MAS deal.

Insiders said it was unlikely the two airlines would merge into a single unit, but would operate though separate managements at operational level, while sharing common directors and policies.

Malaysia will get the best of both worlds a premier full-service carrier in MAS and the best budget carrier in AirAsia.

"They have been competing with each other for too long, and it's time to work together because there is more than enough to go around," said a senior government official.

The official added that the "feud" between the two had been going on for 10 years since Fernandes and others took over the ailing AirAsia from DRB Hicom.

AirAsia is twice as big as MAS in terms of market capitalisation. MAS is worth about RM5.3bil, while Fernandes' outfit is worth slightly more than RM11bil.

AirAsia stocks closed at RM3.95 per share yesterday while MAS' was at RM1.60.

A news portal, The Malaysian Insider, which broke the story of the deal yesterday, reported that Fernandes would likely appoint Khazanah's executive director of investments Mohd Rashdan Mohd Yusof as chief operating officer after the share swap. Rashdan already sits on the MAS board.

Sources said no decision was made about the position of MAS CEO Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin.

MAS recorded a first quarter net loss of RM242.3mil against a profit of RM310.6mil in the same period last year. Analysts expect the national carrier to make full-year operating losses due to high fuel costs and falling yields.

In contrast, AirAsia recorded a first quarter profit of RM171.9mil for this year and a record RM1.5bil in profits for 2010.

Sources said the merger would also force the two airlines to take stock of their future aircraft purchases if they are to enjoy any synergy.

AirAsia purchased 200 Airbus A320 aircraft earlier this year with an option to buy another 100, while MAS was set to make a decision on the replacement aircraft for its Boeing 747 and 777 fleet, which is more than 20 years old.


Kuala Lumpur, 7 August 2011

"We refer to media reports that Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Dato' Kamarudin Meranun will emerge as the single largest shareholder of Malaysian Airline System Berhad ("MAS"). These reports are incorrect. The aviation sector is a strategic sector to the economy and MAS remains a core holding in Khazanah Nasional Berhad's portfolio. Khazanah will continue to maintain its position as the single largest shareholder in MAS.

As an active strategic investor, Khazanah constantly reviews ways to improve the performance of its portfolio companies and concurrently the competitiveness of key strategic sectors of the economy. Further announcements will be made at the appropriate time with regard to Khazanah's position in MAS' ongoing transformation plan."


Kuala Lumpur, 7 August 2011

"We refer to the press coverage over the last two days that has reported that we would become the single largest shareholder in MAS.

We wish to clarify that this is not true.

As the major shareholders of AirAsia Berhad and AirAsia X Sdn Bhd, we are committed to increasing shareholder value in both our core investments by continuously exploring various opportunities to enhance our franchise."

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