Khamis, 11 Ogos 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

High five with Kim

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 03:17 AM PDT

BRINGING more than just Today's Best Music to listeners, Red FM has also brought fans closer to some of today's rising artistes from Justin Bieber to Jang Keun Suk and more recently, Il Volo.

And now, in conjunction with the release of his debut solo album, Break Down, Red FM and Warner Music Malaysia are giving K-pop fans the chance to meet Kim Hyun Joong.

One of South Korea's hottest stars, the leader of the popular group SS501, will be in Kuala Lumpur to promote his album through an exclusive "High Five" session.

This highly anticipated event will take place at Gardens Ballroom, The Gardens Hotel and Residences in Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur, on Aug 21 at 2pm.

You get the opportunity to meet Kim as well as a spot to "high five" him just by tuning in to the Red FM Breakfast show with Rudy and Jeremy (Monday to Friday, 6am-10am) all next week.

Besides being the leader and main dancer of SS501, Kim has also forayed into acting with roles in television series Boys Over Flowers, where he played one of the lead characters. His career has also earned him numerous awards around the region.

Brace yourself for the arrival of this Korean heartthrob who has been breaking down cultural barriers as he wins fans from all around the world. To be one of the lucky listeners to meet Kim, listen out for the cue to enter the contest on the Red FM Breakfast show as Red FM is the official radio station for his "High Five" session.

For more details on the contest, log on to Join the Red FM (Malaysia) Facebook Group page for updates on the station as well as follow us on Twitter (@iloveredfm).

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

> Red FM's station frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1 FM; George Town and Seberang Perai: 107.6 FM; Ipoh, Perak: 106.4 FM; Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan & Tapah: 104.9 FM; Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6 FM; Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9 FM; Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8 FM.

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Calling the single

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 03:14 AM PDT

BRITAIN'S most talked about show has finally reached our shores. Get ready for the Malaysian version of Take Me Out – a daring, sassy and electrifying show, where first impressions count.

Each week, brave bachelors will have to impress a panel of beauties to try and bag the perfect date. But if the ladies don't like what they see, the bravehearts face a blackout and go home empty-handed.

In Take Me Out, due to air in November on Ntv7, a group of single ladies and men from across the country will get a chance to meet up in the hope of finding true love.

If you are single and looking, don't miss tomorrow's auditions from 10am to 6pm (male) and Sunday (ladies) at Sri Pentas, Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Participants must be aged between 18 and 40. For more details, go to meout.

Bring along a photocopy of your identity card and photos (one passport-size photo and two 3R photos/face and full body).

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Vamping it up

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 03:13 AM PDT

The young cast of The Vampire Diaries lets us in on some 'gory details' of the hit series.

PLEASE do not say that The Vampire Diaries is a rip-off of Twilight. Yes, both The Vampire Diaries and Twilight feature vampires and werewolves. Sure, there's a love triangle involving two hunks and one pretty brunette. And of course, the first Twilight movie came out in 2008 – almost a year before The Vampire Diaries TV series made its debut in the United States in September 2009.

But consider this fact: the first The Vampire Diaries book (there are currently seven in the series written by L.J. Smith) was published in 1991 – that's 14 years before Stephenie Meyer released the first Twilight book. So, The Vampire Diaries did not copy Twilight.

However, the cast of the TV series is going to give credit where it is due. If not for the massive popularity of the Twilight movies, The Vampire Diaries would not have been this successful.

"They have kind of paved the road for a lot of these vampire-theme shows that are out now," Steven R. McQueen said about Twilight. "I admire their work but I've only seen the first movie."

We are at a fancy suite in Soho Hotel to talk to the cast of The Vampire Diaries who are in London to promote the hit TV series. The cast is represented by McQueen who looks preppy in pants, shirt and a pullover; the sassy Kat Graham in short shorts, sheer top and a pair of dangling earrings which look like locks of blonde hair; and Candice Accola, the most chatty of the lot, channelling a bohemian look in a maxi dress.

In the series, McQueen plays Jeremy Gilbert, the younger brother of protagonist Elena. Graham plays Elena's best friend Bonnie Bennett who discovers she's a witch. Accola portrays Caroline Forbes, Elena and Bonnie's friend, who was turned into a vampire.

Though Jeremy, Bonnie and Caroline are secondary characters on the show, the fact that Warner TV (which arranged this interview) is pushing them to talk to the international media instead of the three leads (Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev) hints at the importance of these characters in the upcoming third season of The Vampire Diaries (out next month Stateside).

But these actors know better than to believe the hype; characters on the series are killed off when writers feel it will help the storyline or ratings!

"You don't know how much we have to suck up (to the writers)," Accola joked. "It is stressful when you don't know what's going to happen to your character. So, we always have to be nice to everyone."

Accola needn't worry. The character of Caroline, the ditzy vampire, or as she would call it "Barbie Vampire", is one of the fan favourites. And she said she owes it to the writers for writing a character that is so compelling.

Accola reasoned: "It is lovely that the writers have given viewers the opportunity to see the transition of a vampire, especially one with the temperament of Caroline who is very self-serving, insecure. At the same time, in this transition, she learns to put the needs of others before herself. And that's how she finds love."

Now that Caroline is a vampire, it means Accola gets a taste of blood ... fake blood, that is. Accola explained that the special effects team used different concoctions as blood for different scenes.

"In the bloody scenes, it all depends on what you are doing and where the cameras are stationed. Like, when you are biting someone (in a tight shot) and come up facing the camera, with the blood dripping from your mouth, they use a thick corn syrup which is very nauseating. But in scenes in which you actually have to 'drink' the blood, they use different fruit juices and make it into a smoothie," said the chirpy 24-year-old Accola.

She also let in on a production secret. The transformation from human to vampire is really not that difficult for the actors; no sitting at the makeup chair for hours to look the part of a vamp.

"It is a lot less complicated than you'd think," Accola offered. "In Season One, both Ian and Paul (who play vampire brothers Damon and Stefan Salvatore) had to wear contacts, full fangs and veins on their faces. So, it was a full-on production.

"But now, with the help of technology in post-production, all the actors have to wear are two caps that fit on your teeth as fangs and six dots around the eyes which are used as tracking marks so that they can create the rippling effects in post-production."

In The Vampire Diaries, the viewers are introduced to Elena (Nina Dobrev) and Jeremy who move to Mystic Falls, Virginia, after their parents' death. At school, Elena is immediately smitten by the mysterious Stefan. Romance blossoms between her and Stefan soon after but the latter's brother, the alluring Damon, comes to town hoping to win the affection of Elena as well.

A love triangle is the least of Elena's troubles as the Salvatore brothers turn out to be century-old vampires whom she might have known in her past life. To make matters more complicated, Elena's circle of friends – among them is a powerful witch and a hotheaded werewolf – are entangled in her life.

With such a premise, naturally the storylines are dark and gritty. However, McQueen assures fans that the set of The Vampire Diaries is far from serious. "It is a dramatic series and we do take it seriously and Jeremy is as depressing a character as it comes but on set we have a lot of fun together," said the 23-year-old McQueen.

Maybe a little too much fun. Back in 2009, five of the cast members were arrested in Georgia for disorderly conduct. Accola, Dobrev together with Kayla Ewell, Krystal Vayda and Sara Canning were posing for celebrity photographer Tyler Shields at a bridge in Georgia when things got a little out of control. Drivers called the police when they saw these girls hanging over the bridge and (gasp!) baring their breasts at oncoming traffic!

To understand the dynamics of the (mostly young) cast members, you have to know where the series is filmed. After the pilot was shot in Vancouver, Canada, production moved to Georgia, Atlanta in the United States.

Since the show is set in the fictional town of Mystic Falls in Virginia, Atlanta is the perfect city to give the Southern feel. Now, Atlanta is not exactly Hollywood, which explains why the cast members stay close to one another. Even lead stars Dobrev and Somerhalder are reportedly dating.

"We work together five days a week and then the weekend comes and we're still all hanging out," said McQueen, who is the grandson of legendary actor Steve McQueen. "It's really been like a family experience."

McQueen, who has since relocated to Atlanta, finds that working in a city outside Los Angeles is a positive thing. For one, everyone's more focused on work. "It's almost a breath of fresh air." There's a lot of distraction in California and when you get to start over in a new place, you slip into a different mentality and put everything you have into work," said McQueen.

Graham, 21, couldn't agree more. "It's kind of like an understood thing where you know you have to do a great job because you're sacrificing so much of your personal life for this work of art," said Graham, who hails from Los Angeles.

The crazy days of flashing at the public are over. These days, the cast members indulge in healthier social activities. Accola and Graham both attend dance classes and bikram yoga while McQueen works out at the gym.

All three stars know the majority fan base for The Vampire Diaries are a younger set of audience so it comes naturally that they will be viewed as role models. But they don't feel the pressure to live up to expectations. They made it clear that they are not changing themselves for anyone.

McQueen said: "At the end of the day, we play make-believe for a living. We are regular people and you can't change that much to please others."

Accola only has two people to please. "I just have the pressure to keep my parents happy and I feel that's a good bar to set."

Graham felt she has only herself to answer to, and not the public. "I feel the pressure to be myself and not be swayed into different directions because of what the media or people say."

With good heads on their shoulders and a fantastic show in their hands, it looks like the future is bright for Candice Accola, Kat Graham and Steven R. McQueen.

> The repeats of The Vampire Diaries (Season One) airs at 11pm, every Wednesday, on WarnerTV (HyppTV Ch 162). For more stories on the series, pick up a copy of the Aug 1-16 issue of Galaxie.

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

China CNR says to recall 54 bullet trains due to safety

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:41 PM PDT

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China CNR Corp Ltd, the nation's No.2 train maker, will recall 54 bullet trains used on the new Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line for safety reasons, the firm said on Friday.

The recall of the CRH380BL-series bullet trains will not affect sales contracts with its customers, although it will face undetermined costs as part of the recall, CSR said in a statement with the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

A bullet train pulls into Beijing South Railway Station, July 25, 2011. China CNR Corp Ltd, the nation's No.2 train maker, will recall 54 bullet trains used on the new Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line for safety reasons, the firm said on Friday. (REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files)

"The company predicts that costs associated with testing and overhaul will definitely have an impact on operations this year," the statement said.

The recall comes two days after CNR said its subsidiary, Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., had been ordered by the Ministry of Railways to halt delivery of the CRH380BL after signalling faults in the trains' automatic safety systems were found to cause delays.

China's flagship high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai has suffered several delays due to power cuts and other technical reasons since it was launched in late June.

The country also plans to suspend new project approvals and to launch safety checks on existing equipments to address growing public fury following a deadly crash between two high-speed trains last month.

Separately, the China Securities Journal cited a spokesman from China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp Ltd (CSR) as saying the firm's order book remains full until the third quarter of next year and has not been affected by the accident.

China South Locomotive had built both of the trains involved in the crash last month, one of which was manufactured as part of a joint venture with Canada's Bombardier.

(Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Ken Wills)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Thousands riot in southwest China town - reports

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 07:40 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - Thousands of residents of a town in southwest China took to the streets on Thursday, smashing police vehicles in the latest protest by citizens angered by the rough handling of local officials, according to news reports.

The protest in Qianxi County, Guizhou province, was the latest of thousands of brief, local riots and demonstrations that happen in China every year, and like many recent outbreaks this one pitted residents against "urban administration" officials charged with enforcing law and order.

The "clash broke out between urban administration officials and the owner of an illegally parked vehicle, drawing in thousands of onlookers and sparking incidents of crowds smashing law enforcement vehicles and blocking roads," the website of China National Radio ( reported on Friday.

Rioters turned over one urban administration vehicle and smashed five police vehicles, while others blocked the main streets around the riot with fork lifts and trucks, said the report.

"While dealing with the incident, some police were injured," said the report, which added that by the early hours of Friday the crowds had largely scattered as police asserted control.

A riot in southern China in June was also triggered by rancour between residents and local law-and-order officials, and researchers say such explosive but usually brief outbursts are a hallmark of the unrest testing the controls of the ruling Communist Party.

Radio Free Asia, a news service based in Washington D.C., reported the clash in Qianxi broke out after officials tried to confiscate an electric cycle, injuring the female owner.

China saw almost 90,000 such "mass incidents" of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.

That is an increase from 2007, when China had over 80,000 mass incidents, up from over 60,000 in 2006, according to an earlier report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Like many other recent protests and riots, news of this one spread on China's Internet, especially on Sina's popular Weibo microblogging site, reported Radio Free Asia.

But Chinese authorities are wary of any discussion of such discontent spreading, and by Friday morning, searches on Weibo for Qianxi County and even Guizhou province were largely blocked on Weibo, with a message saying the "relevant legal regulations" prevented showing the search results.

Users nonetheless posted comments, and some drew sardonic parallels with the recent riots in London and other English cities.

"In fact, China has riots more serious than England's every week," said one Weibo comment.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Miral Fahmy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Syrian forces kill 19, U.S. threatens more sanctions

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 06:39 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian forces killed at least 19 people in raids near the Lebanon border and in the country's Sunni tribal heartland, activists said, pursuing a military campaign to crush street protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad's forces have intensified assaults on towns and cities across the country since the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan to subdue mounting dissent against the ruling family, despite threats of new U.S. sanctions and calls from Turkey, Syria's powerful northern neighbour, and Arab nations, to halt the attacks.

"Assad remains convinced that the military solution is working, ignoring the fact that as soon as he contains demonstrations in one town they erupt in another," a Western diplomat in the Syrian capital said.

"At one point he may not have enough loyalist troops capable of exerting control over simultaneous centres of protests," he added. Assad belongs to Shia Islam's minority Alawite sect.

Activists and rights campaigners said 11 civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed on Thursday when troops and tanks swept into Qusair, 135 km (85 miles) north of Damascus, after overnight protests calling for Assad's removal.

In nearby Homs, activists said on Friday that five people, including a nine-year-old boy, were killed in an overnight raid on the Byada residential district after protests in the city.

Nightly Ramadan prayers, or 'tarawih', which follow the breaking of the fast, have given more Syrians a focus for daily protest marches against 41 years of Assad family rule over the country of 20 million, activists said.

Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists since the five-month-old uprising began, making it difficult to verify reports from both sides.

In the east, troops and Military Intelligence personnel, backed by armoured vehicles, stepped up their assault on Deir al-Zor, capital of an oil-producing province bordering Iraq's Sunni heartland.

Four civilians were killed in house-to-house raids in Deir al-Zor on Thursday and several shops belonging to families of prominent dissidents in the city were burned down, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

One person was killed in the coastal city of Latakia.

About 14 tanks and armoured vehicles swept into Saraqeb, a town on Syria's main north-south highway that has seen daily demonstrations, and security forces arrested 100 people, residents said by telephone.

The tanks later withdrew and residents staged a night-time rally in the town's streets, but security forces fired at the demonstrators, injuring four, the Syrian Observatory said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said sanctions against Syria's oil and gas industry were needed to put pressure on Assad. She called on Europe and China, main foreign players in Syria's energy sector along with Russia, to do more in imposing sanctions on Syria.

Clinton, in a CBS interview, also said an organised, united opposition was needed in Syria.

Syria's oil industry, with which the ruling family has close links, generates most of the state's hard currency from crude output of 380,000 barrels per day.

Asked why the United States had not called on Assad to step down, Clinton said the United States had been "very clear" in its statements about Assad's loss of legitimacy, and wanted other nations to add their voices.

On Wednesday Washington imposed sanctions on Syria's largest bank and on biggest mobile telephone company, controlled by Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf, and on Thursday U.S. ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford said more sanctions would follow if the Syrian authorities did not stop their use of violence.

Regional powers Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have all put pressure on Assad to stop the violence. U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Thursday and agreed Syrians' demands for a transition to democracy must be met, the White House said.

Diplomats in New York quoted United Nations deputy political affairs chief Oscar Fernandez-Taranco as saying on Wednesday that nearly 2,000 Syrian civilians had been killed since March -- 188 since July 31 and 87 on Aug. 8 alone.

Syria says 500 soldiers and police have died in the bloodshed, which it blames on armed gangs and terrorists.


Syrian authorities said their tanks had pulled out of Hama, where troops crushed large pro-democracy protests in an attack that residents said killed scores of civilians, reviving memories of a massacre by the military three decades ago.

Troops sent in by Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, overran the city in 1982 and crushed Islamist insurgents, killing many thousands of people.

Hama's main streets were empty on Thursday, windows shuttered and most shops closed after the week-long military campaign to crush dissent in a city that had become a symbol of defiance.

During a trip organised for Turkish journalists, no tanks could be seen but armed, uniformed men stood on rooftops, soldiers manned a series of checkpoints into the city, and the governor's building in the central square was flanked by two military vehicles with mounted machineguns.

The Syrian human rights group Sawasiah said at least 30 people were arrested in dawn raids in the northern countryside near Aleppo, and other arrests were made in the northern Idlib province, Damascus suburbs and the southern Hauran Plain.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rights campaigner Abdelkarim Rihawi was arrested at a cafe in Damascus.

Another activist group, the Local Coordinating Committees, said nine detainees had died from torture in detention over the last 10 days in Damascus, Homs, Deraa and Damascus suburbs.

(Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz, Louis Charbonneau at United Nations, Arshad Mohammed, Jeff Mason and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington, Editing by Tim Pearce)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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Rexy to retain the disappointing Zakry-Thien How partnership

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 06:33 PM PDT


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MOHD Zakry Abdul Latif (pic) and Hoon Thien How will continue playing as pair, for now.

National coach Rexy Mainaky feels that he can still push them to qualify for next year's Olympic Games alhtough the duo fell short of expectations at the World Championships.

On Tuesday, the duo blew a good chance to come good when they went down 24-26, 19-21 to 10th seeds Fang Chieh-min-Lee Sheng-mu of Taiwan. In the absence of Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan in their quarter, the Malaysians had a chance to go far.

"Yes, I was disappointed with the way we the lost.

"There were mistakes which should not have happened. They just did not want it as much as the coach, I guess," said Rexy.

"But I have spoken to them and I know they want to make amends. They are comfortable with each other and I have decided to keep them together.

"Their next mission is to qualify for the Olympic Games. We will continue to send them to international tournaments to win good qualifying points."

There was a plan prior to the world meet to team up Thien Hoon with one of the back-up players under Tan Kim Her's guidance.

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Kien Keat-Boon Heong aim to break losing jinx against Korean pair

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 06:32 PM PDT


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NATIONAL suttlers Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will be out to get the monkey off their backs when they take on South Koreans Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong in the quarter-finals of the men's doubles event in the World Badminton Championships today.

Yesterday, fourth seeds Kien Keat-Boon Heong were slow off the starting block but found their rhythm quick enough to beat Taiwan's Chen Hung-ling-Lin Yu-lang 21-13, 21-14 in the third round.

It was their fourth straight win against the Taiwanese pair.

Today, they will take on Sung-hyun-Yeon-seong, whom they have never beaten before. The Koreans tamed their younger compatriots Cho Gun-woo Kwon Yi-goo 21-15, 21-17 in another third round match.

Kien Keat said that they were ready to take down the Koreans for the first time.

"It was a good win for us against the Taiwanese. I do not think we were in danger against them at any point during the match," said Kien Keat.

The two pairs were tied at 6-6 in the opening game before the Malaysians pulled away for a win. In the second game, they traded points until 11-11 before Kien Keat-Boon Heong broke away.

"It will be tougher against the Koreans tomorrow. We have lost to them four times before this, but we do not fear them. We have worked hard for the world meet and Boon Heong and I will be there to score a first victory and march into the semis," added Kien Keat.

They Malaysians have lost to the Koreans three times last year at the Switzerland, China and Singapore Opens. This year, they were beaten in the BWF Super Series Masters Finals.

Boon Heong said: "We played quite well today and hopefully, we will be able to raise the standard higher against the Koreans."

At last year's world meet in Paris, Boon Heong-Kien Keat played beyond expectations when they ended a two-year losing streak against Korea's top-ranked pair Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae in the quarter-finals enroute to a runners-up finish.

And they will be hoping to achieve a similiar breakthrough against the second-ranked Korean pair today.

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World Badminton Championships results

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 06:20 PM PDT

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Men's singles

Second round: Boonsak Ponsana (Tha) bt Wong Choong Hann 21-13, 21-18; Derek Wong Zi Liang (Sin) bt Taufik Hidayat (Ina) 21-17, 21-14; Du Pengyu (Chn) bt Kazushi Yamada (Jpn) 21-12, 21-14.

Third round: Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Park Sung-hwan (Kor) 21-10, 21-5; Lin Dan (Chn) bt Lee Hyun-il (Kor) 21-16, 21-13; Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) bt Derek Wong Zi Liang (Sin) 21-16, 21-10; Peter-Gade Christensen (Den) bt Simon Santoso (Ina) 21-18, 14-21, 21-14; Sho Sasaki (Jpn) bt Du Pengyu (Chn) 10-21, 24-22, 21-10; Chen Jin (Chn) bt Ajay Jayaram (Ind) 18-21, 21-12, 21-11.

Men's doubles

Second round: Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den) bt Adrian Liu-Derric Ng (Can) 21-5, 21-10; Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong (Kor) bt Chris Adcock-Andrew Ellis (Eng) 18-21, 21-13, 21-13; Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata (Jpn) bt Ruud Bosh-Koen Ridder (Ned) 21-14, 18-21, 21-12;

Mads Conrad-Petersen-Jonas Rasmussen (Den) bt Alven Yulianto-Hendra Gunawan (Ina) 22-20, 13-21, 21-18; Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (Chn) bt Naoki Kawamae-Shoji Sato (Jpn) 21-17, 15-21, 21-14; Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae (Kor) bt Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa (Jpn) 21-14, 21-5; Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Mas) bt Chen Hung-ling-Lin Yu-lang (Tpe) 21-13, 21-14; Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong (Kor) bt Cho Gun-woo-Kwon Yi-goo (Kor) 21-15, 21-17.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Dow soars 423 points, Europe up, Asia opens higher(update)

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 05:48 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Wall Street's wildest week since 2008 careened into another 400-plus point move for the Dow on Thursday. This time, stocks shot up after investors saw small signs that the U.S. economy might not be headed into another recession.

Fewer Americans joined the unemployment line last week, and a technology bellwether said revenue could grow faster this quarter than analysts expected. The news pushed prices on long-term Treasurys down, and gold fell from its record high.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 423.37 points.

During a calm market, such a large move would rank as the Dow's biggest in months. For this volatile week, it's more than 100 points off the average. The Dow plunged 634 points Monday, soared 429 points Tuesday, and dove 519 points Wednesday. It's the first time the Dow has ever had four straight 400-point days.

Carlton Neel, who manages about $2 billion as a senior portfolio manager at Virtus Investment Partners, said investors are so scared of being the last one out of the market in a downturn or the last one in during a rally that they are stampeding in herds, creating more volatility.

"Fear tends to be a much more powerful emotion, and the sell-offs tend to be more violent than the rallies," he said. "But people are worried about missing the bottom, so you will have a few melt-ups along the way." That's because memories of the last meltdown in 2008 are still fresh in the mind of many investors.

In October 2008, the Dow had four days of 400-point plus gains and four days of similar losses. That includes a 936-point surge on Oct. 13 after European central banks pledged more aid to banks and the U.S. Treasury offered details about its plan for U.S. banks. Two days later, a report showed retail sales had fallen more than anticipated and the Dow dropped 733 points.

On Friday, the government will say how much people spent at retailers during July. Economists expect a 0.4 percent rise in retail sales, according to FactSet.

This week's ricocheting is reminiscent of 2008, when the financial crisis battered stocks. The last time the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose or fell by 4 percent in four straight trading days, as it has just done, was Nov. 19, 2008 through Nov. 24, 2008, according to Kevin Pleines, an analyst at Birinyi Associates. It's only the third time since 1934. October 1987, including the day known as Black Monday when the S&P plunged more than 20 percent, was the first instance.

The Dow climbed 3.9 percent Thursday, to 11,143.31 The S&P 500 rose 51.88, or 4.6 percent, to 1,172.64. The Nasdaq rose 111.63, or 4.7 percent, to 2,492.68.

The surge came after the government said the number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time fell to 395,000 last week, down 7,000 from a week earlier. It's the first time the number has dropped below 400,000 in four months.

Analysts said it may be a sign that the job market is slowly improving after its three-month slump. Job growth slowed to an average of 72,000 in May, June and July. In the previous three months, employers added 215,000 jobs per month, on average.

"It's the first scrap of economic data we've had recently that says the idea that we're going into another recession may be overdone," Neel said.

In the last few weeks, investors have grown more worried about the economy. The government said last month that it grew at its slowest pace in the first half of 2011 since the recession ended in 2009. Unemployment is still above 9 percent.

Technology stocks helped lead stocks higher. Cisco Systems Inc.'s profit for the latest quarter topped analysts' expectations. Cisco is considered a bellwether for the tech industry because it is the world's largest maker of computer networking equipment. The company also said revenue may grow more quickly in the current quarter than analysts were anticipating. Cisco soared 16 percent. As a group, tech stocks in the S&P 500 rose 4.5 percent.

Financial stocks also rebounded from their steep drop Wednesday, up 6.3 percent after a 7.1 percent drop a day earlier.

Media conglomerate News Corp., which owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, rose 18.1 percent. Its earnings, reported late Wednesday, were stronger than analysts expected.

Department store chain Kohl's Corp. rose 7.2 percent after it said profit rose 17 percent last quarter on stronger sales of store-label brands.

In recent weeks, investors largely ignored the strong profits that companies have reported since July. Of the 452 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported second-quarter results so far, total earnings are up 12 percent.

Investors have been more focused on worries about the weak U.S. economy and Europe's debt problems.

The leaders of France and Germany, the biggest Eurozone economies, said they will meet next week to talk about how to solve the region's financial difficulties. Worries that the continent's debt problems could hurt the banks that own European government bonds have weighed heavily on financial stocks and the broader market. Pain for European banks could lead to more trouble for the U.S. banking industry and the economy because global financial firms are so closely linked.

Reports also circulated Thursday that European officials were considering a temporary ban on selling stocks short, which is a way that traders bet a stock will fall.

Rumors have been a force driving the market in the last week. On Friday, speculation that Standard & Poor's may downgrade the U.S. from its top AAA credit rating helped knock down stocks. It turned out to be correct.

This week, the scuttlebutt has centered on European banks, French ones in particular. The head of France's central bank said Thursday that the country's banks are solid, and he blamed "unfounded rumors" for big drops in their stocks.

Prices for longer-term Treasurys fell, as investors felt less need to put their money in investments considered safe. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.33 percent from 2.11 percent late Wednesday. A bond's yield rises when its price falls.

Investors had been pouring money into Treasurys earlier in the week, briefly knocking the 10-year note's yield to a record low of 2.03 percent Tuesday. Treasurys have held onto their reputation as a safe place to put money even after S&P cut the U.S. credit rating to AA+ last Friday.

Gold fell $32.80 per ounce to $1,751.50 Thursday. It had rocketed above $1,801 per ounce for the first time on Wednesday as stock markets tumbled around the world.

CME Group raised the amount of money that investors must put up to buy a gold contract on its COMEX exchange by 22 percent late Wednesday.

The Vix index, a measure of investor fear, fell 9 percent to below 40. The index shows how worried investors are that the S&P 500 will drop over the next 30 days. It does that by measuring prices for stock options that investors buy to help protect their portfolios. The Vix is still more than double where it was in early July and remains up 22 percent for the week.

The Dow's climb on Thursday pulls the average further away from bear market territory: The Dow is now 13 percent below its high for the year, reached on April 29. A drop of 20 percent would mean the bull market that began in March 2009 has turned into a bear, a period of stock declines.

All three major U.S. stock indexes are still down between 1.6 percent and 2.6 percent for the week. For the year, the Dow is down 3.8 percent, the S&P is down 6.8 percent and the Nasdaq is down 6 percent.

European markets closed higher Thursday despite another rollercoaster ride for the continent's banks.

Wild swings on a daily basis and across time zones highlight how febrile markets are at the moment amid concerns over the global economy and the levels of debt in both the U.S. and Europe.

Unconfirmed speculation that European markets were considering a ban on short-selling is clear indication of that volatility.

French banks have been particularly volatile as investors fret about their exposure to the debt of countries like Greece and Italy.

Having traded sharply lower for much of the day, most of the banks, including France's second largest Societe Generale, closed higher, helping European markets to post one of their best days in recent weeks, which have been marked by massive declines all round the world.

"Investors made tentative attempts to pick up some of the more badly beaten stocks, taking confidence from a positive opening to U.S. markets," said Joshua Raymond, chief market strategist at City Index. "This in turn sparked a revival of fortunes for European indices, whose early gains had been progressively sold into as the session continued."

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 3.1 percent to 5,162.83 points.

Germany's DAX increased 3.3 percent to 5,797.66.

France's CAC-40 ended up 2.9 percent at 3,089.66.

In currency markets, the Swiss franc dropped sharply after a senior Swiss National Bank official said the bank is examining further measures to soften the currency's "massive overvaluation" against the U.S. dollar and the euro.

The franc fell 5.3 percent to 92 euro cents and dropped 4.9 percent to $1.31. The increased uncertainty in financial markets had pushed the franc to record highs in recent days as investors were fleeing to safe assets.

Earlier Thursday, Asian markets were under pressure following Wednesday's big reverse on Wall Street.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1 percent to 19,595.10, but China's main index in Shanghai rose 1.3 percent to 2,703.90.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.6 percent to close at 8,981.94 as a strengthening yen clobbered Japan's crucial export sector.

Honda Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Corp. each lost 3.5 percent.

However on Friday Asian-Pacific stock markets opened higher following Wall Street's big jump.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 was up 30.52 points, or 0.3 percent, to 9,012.46 after a few minutes of trading Friday morning.

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX200 edged up almost 1 percent to 4,169 points in early trading.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index was up 43 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3,252. - AP

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SingTel Q1 profit 2.9% down

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 05:37 PM PDT

SINGAPORE: Singapore Telecommu-nications (SingTel), South-East Asia's biggest telecom firm, posted a surprise 2.9% fall in its first quarter net profit yesterday, hurt by weaker contributions from Indian associate Bharti Airtel.

But SingTel expects an improvement at Bharti, India's top mobile phone carrier in which SingTel has about one-third stake, as the Indian firm's African operations generate higher revenues and earnings.

"In Africa, Bharti is steadily growing its customer and usage levels, with corresponding improvements in revenue and EBITDA," SingTel's CEO for international operations Hui Weng Cheong said in a statement.

"It has been a year since Bharti began its operations in Africa. Its transformation and restructuring plans are progressing well and Africa is positioned to deliver further growth for Bharti," he added.

Bharti reported a larger-than-expected 28% fall in quarterly profit, partly hit by interest costs related to its purchase of the African businesses of Kuwait's Zain.

SingTel's underlying net profit, which excludes exceptional items and exchange differences on capital reduction of certain overseas subsidiaries, net hedging as well as significant exceptional items of associates, fell by a steeper 7.4% to S$873mil.

SingTel bought stakes in mobile operators in high-growth Asian countries such as India, Indonesia and Thailand about a decade ago to boost growth and reduce its reliance on Singapore.

But as these emerging Asian markets mature and growth slows, SingTel has come under pressure to find new growth drivers.

"We will continue to invest for sustained growth into the future. Many of our new initiatives are in the early growth phase and we are on track to transform ourselves beyond a traditional communications company," said group CEO Chua Sock Koong.

Besides searching for new investments in emerging markets, SingTel has been investing in pay TV in Singapore and other content that can be delivered via mobile devices or ultra-highspeed networks to customers in Singapore and Australia.

Analysts are expecting SingTel's core markets, Singapore and Australia, to benefit in the years to come due to the strong growth in demand for data, driven by increased usage of smart devices such as Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy phones and tablets.

Elsewhere, Indonesian associate PT Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel), had an slightly improved quarter as price competition eased. However, Telkomsel's contribution in Singapore dollar terms fell by nearly 5% due to movement in currency. - Reuters

For another perspective from The Straits Times, a partner of Asia News Network, click here.

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Guan Chong Q2 net profit surges

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 05:33 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Guan Chong Bhd (GCB), one of the largest cocoa processors in the region, recorded a 76.5% year-on-year jump in net profit to RM34.5mil in its second quarter ended June 30, 2011.

Revenue grew 23.6% year-on-year to RM334.6mil, and the better financial performance was attributed mainly to additional production from the group's new plant in Batam, Indonesia.

"While our Pasir Gudang (plant) maintained its full capacity in the quarter under review, our recently-commissioned Batam plant processed 13,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans to raise the group's total production capacity to 32,000 metric tonnes," said GCB managing director and chief executive officer Brandon Tay Hoe Lian in a statement yesterday.

Tay added that he was optimistic of further growth in current financial year, with the group's expanded capacity and sustainable global demand for cocoa.

"Demand for cocoa has held steady through the various economic cycles, even as the food and beverage industry continues to innovate various cocoa applications, and consumers worldwide favour chocolate," said Tay.

For the first six months ended June 30, the group's net profit rose 64.4% year-on-year to RM64.5mil while revenue increased 15.7% year-on-year to RM624.6mil.

Apart from higher sales tonnage, the better financial performance was also due to reduced finance costs and recognition of tax incentives from increased export allowance.

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Journey continues

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 01:43 AM PDT

Once in a while, along comes a movie that celebrates women's changing perception of themselves.

THERE are few movies targeted at women that do not cater to the frilly exploits of finding, dating or marrying a man. Most pander to that easily commercialised and highly exploitable bubble in the collective female brain which constantly craves Cinderella stories.

When a female-centric movie with a colour spectrum outside the usual palette of fairy-dust pink manages to achieve commercial success, it is, therefore, a cause for much celebration and introspection. This year, that movie is Bridesmaids.

Bridesmaids is a painfully revealing look at how the inroads that women have made have also led to a whole new world of confusion and guilt.

It is also a funny and moving film that has obviously struck a chord, not only with critics, but also with moviegoers, if box-office takings are anything to go by. It is the highest grossing film produced by Judd Apatow.

The last time a women's movie pleased both critics and the box office was Thelma & Louise, which, coincidentally, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

In between, there was, of course, Sex And The City, a powerful celluloid mirror which reflected women's changing perceptions of themselves as liberated beings in the boardroom and the bedroom.

Sex And The City was, in effect, the transformative bridge between Thelma & Louise and Bridesmaids.

So what has happened to feminism in the 20 years between Thelma & Louise and Bridesmaids? A lot. And then some.

When Thelma & Louise hit the screens in 1991, it blasted perceptions by taking the male trope of the road movie and applying it to a female setting. The story of two female friends whose innocent road trip ends up as a journey of life and death, was one in which the enemy was an abusive, male-centric and sexist society.

In Thelma & Louise, the two female friends had few choices. Hence, the controversial ending where they drive their car off the cliff. Those who decried the nihilistic ending missed the point of the movie as a cathartic liberating fantasy for women who also do not normally shoot up oil tankers, rob convenience stores or pick up men who look like Brad Pitt.

More importantly, Thelma & Louise was probably the last intelligent woman's movie where the women did not fight over a man or go shopping.

Since then, the last 20 years have been notable for the positive evolution of the male gender. For example, men today play a more active role in parenting, and are generally more aware and respectful of women's rights.

Women have also evolved, but in more diffused and confusing directions as they savour and assess the fruit of emancipation. Is it as sweet as they thought it would be? There are now more women in positions of power and playing the role of the breadwinner in their relationships.

Women have become more powerful, while still maintaining the residual pre-feminist vestiges of also wanting to be a good wife and mother.

In the 60s and 70s, and even in Thelma & Louise, marriage was largely regarded with disdain and suspicion, a dead-end to be avoided.

In Bridesmaids, however, marriage is the raison d'etre of the movie, as one woman prepares to get married while her best friend remains single. While the other picture-perfect bridesmaids in the party eventually reveal that they are in less-than-happy marriages, there is no talk of divorce, almost as if there is a tacit acceptance that marriage is like pizza – even when it's bad, it's pretty good.

While Thelma & Louise celebrated female bonding by fighting the male establishment, Bridesmaids shows instead, that some women are their own worst enemies, fighting among themselves.

In the movie, the single protagonist Annie finds herself with women who do not compete with men, but with one another, in a race to see who has the prettiest face, the most exclusive designer dress, the richest husband or, even, who can be the best friend.

Most devastatingly, Annie, stuck in a friends-with-benefits relationship with a self-absorbed man and licking the wounds of her failed cake business, is in a battle with her self-confidence as a woman. It is the existential war of the post-feminist woman paralysed and exhausted by the many choices before her.

Yet, Bridesmaids is not a rejection of feminist values, but a brutal reassessment of how they are changing, along with the times and with evolving gender roles. Emancipation liberates, but it also comes with serious responsibilities.

At the end of the movie, Annie's redemption comes in the form of a new man, as well as another single bridesmaid in the party, who reminds her that success comes only with hard work, plus a lot of support from friends, regardless of whether one is a bride or a bridesmaid.

Annie does not drive off a cliff at the end of the movie. But she does not drive off into the sunset, either. Her journey continues, as does that of all women. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

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Kevin Spacey is good at being bad

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 01:22 AM PDT

Kevin Spacey loves being mean and manipulative in the dark comedy Horrible Bosses.

BAD guys do not come as good or have as much fun as Kevin Spacey.

The actor, whose illustrious career includes a stunning turn as the mysterious underworld figure Keyser Soze in Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects (1995), plays a mean and incorrigible manager in the new comedy Horrible Bosses.

He says: "I had a blast. Being a bad guy in a fun comedy is very different from being a bad guy in a sick comedy."

In what can only be described as bromance-meets-revenge-flick, three long-suffering buddies in untenable work situations (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) plot to finish off their evil superiors.

While the first two bosses are played by the unlikely Jennifer Aniston (an oversexed dentist) and Colin Farrell (a junkie with a – gasp! – combover), the title of big horrible boss of the day goes to Spacey's Dave Harken. The master manipulator messes with the minds of his underlings in not so much cardboard fashion as gloriously over-the-top manner, including murder via mobile phone.

"We had an incredible time shooting – it was not easy to pull off the script, which becomes more outrageous as it goes," Spacey says.

"Harken's a scumbag – it's not that complicated. He's narcissistic and debilitating to our heroes. He thinks his wife is busy screwing everyone else and he's probably right."

But will filmgoers be piling into theatres to see the 52-year-old actor as his iconic self, or as his larger-than-life screen character?

"Ah, an argument can be made on each side of the question. I put myself into the characters I play, but audiences don't know me that well as a person. It's just fun being a horrible boss."

If truth be told – or as Spacey would have you believe – the man is actually a really nice boss himself.

When not zipping in between studios taking on major roles (Se7en, 1995; American Beauty, 1999; The Men Who Stare At Goats, 2009), the son of a data consultant and secretary is artistic director of The Old Vic theatre in London.

In fact, this telephone interview is taking place in between rehearsals for Shakespeare's Richard III, which will be coming to Singapore at the Esplanade Theatre in November.

Spacey says: "I'm incredibly lucky to have remarkable staff. If you surround yourself with remarkable individuals and trust them to do what they do, you can focus on different things at different times and create something extraordinary.

"I absolutely appreciate what they do and tell them that it is important to recognise thaoppppt. We work together as a team."

It helps, of course, for him to have experienced a bit of hardship on the other side of the employer/employee divide. Before making his career in the film industry, the actor gamely counts building condominiums in Valencia among the highlights of his CV.

"That was dirty, c**p work. I'm never installing an oven again," he says.

"There are jobs that some people do ever so skilfully but you recognise you don't have a talent for."

For the moment, however, he is happy to work his tail off on behalf of Horrible Bosses' studio owners, who are allegedly already talking to him and the team about a sequel.

As all happy employees would agree, Spacey affirms, tongue almost firmly in cheek: "I'll do it, if I get paid a lot more money!" – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Horrible Bosses opens in cinemas today.

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Kate Moss inspired to wed by 'Gypsy Weddings' show

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 10:30 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): Kate Moss felt inspired to get married by watching the British reality show "Big Fat Gypsy Weddings" which follows real-life gypsy women planning to get married.

The September issue of Vogue magazine goes inside the supermodel's July wedding to musician Jamie Hince. Moss says she was charmed by the extravagance of gypsy weddings with wedding gowns that are like "blinging butterflies times ten."

The 37-year-old's nuptials were also no small affair. She had 16 bridesmaids and flower girls, a carnival tent and tepees for children, specialty cocktails called Kate 76 made with vodka, champagne, crushed ice and sugar and a gown designed by John Galliano.

Moss admits in the article that planning the wedding made her "mental."

The September issue of Vogue magazine goes on sale Aug. 23.

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The Star Online: Nation

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Security companies reminded not to hire foreigners as guards

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 05:46 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Security companies in the country have been reminded not to hire foreign workers as security guards at any premises.

Association of Professional Security Agencies (ASPA) president Datuk Mustapha Ali said companies still employing foreigners can be fined under the Private Agencies Act 1971.

"There is no need for foreign workers in the security industry because there are many local workers who can serve as security guards.

"Why do we still take in foreigners to take care of us and our homes? Are we confident with the training and experience they have? It is an offence to hire foreign workers as security guards," he said Thursday, when asked comment on the need to employ foreign labour to the point of incurring expenses to the Government in terms of management and costs.

Mustapha, who is also Security Services Association of Malaysia (PPKKM) deputy president, wants all quarters including residential management not to compromise or use foreigners as security guards.

"We know foreign labour is cheaper than local but we must remember that lower cost does not necessarily promise security.

"We don't know the background of foreign workers and should they be arrested by police or Immigration, their employers can be charged. If anything happens, who will take responsibility?" said Mustapha, adding this differed from the construction sector which needed more foreign workers for national development. - Bernama

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Govt may extend amnesty programme deadline

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 05:24 AM PDT

Published: Thursday August 11, 2011 MYT 8:24:00 PM

PUTRAJAYA: The Home Ministry may extend the deadline for illegal foreign workers to register for the 6P amnesty programme.

Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the possible extension was due to overwhelming response.

"The registration process has been smooth and recorded encouraging numbers.

"I have asked ministry's secretary-general Tan Sri Mahmood Adam, through the 6P Programme Implementation Committee, to assess whether there is a need to extend the deadline," he said in a statement here Thursday.

The process started on Aug 1 and is to end Sunday.

However, Hishammuddin said, the registration process for legal foreign workers which started on July 13 would continue indefinitely.

Until Thursday, a total of 877,884 illegal immigrants and 850,233 legal foreign workers have registered.

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Banting murders: Defence applies to cite prosecution for contempt

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 03:47 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: The defence in the High Court murder trial of cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya and three others Thursday submitted an application to cite the prosecution for contempt of court.

Lawyer Manjeet Singh Dhillon made the application against deputy public prosecutors Idham Abd Ghani and Saiful Edris Zainuddin, following their case against key prosecution witness U. Suresh for perjury, at the Sessions Court here Wednesday.

Manjeet Singh, counsel for former lawyer N. Pathmanaban, the first accused in the murder case, said the charge against Suresh should not have been made since the trial was still on and the presiding judge, Datuk Akhtar Tahir, had yet to make his decision on whether to impeach the witness.

However, Saiful Edris said the prosecution had the right to do so as Suresh was their witness.

Akhtar set Monday to hear submissions from both parties.

On Wednesday, Suresh pleaded not guilty and claimed trial to a charge of giving false evidence during the proceedings of Public Prosecutor vs Pathmanabhan, T. Thilaiyalagan, R. Matan and R. Khatavarayan before Judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir, contradicting his statement to recording officer ASP Ong Seng Keong on Oct 26 2010 in Sungai Udang Prison, Malacca.

The offence was allegedly committed between 9.30am and 12 noon on July 25 and 27 in High Court 8 here.

Suresh is the 29th prosecution witness in the trial of Pathmanabhan, 42, Thilaiyagan, 20; Matan, 21, and Khatavarayan, 31, who are charged with murdering Sosilawati, 47; lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32; bank officer Noorhisham Mohamad, 38; and Sosilawati's driver, Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, 44, at Lot 2001, Jalan Tanjong Layang, Tanjung Sepat, Banting, between 8.30pm and 9.45pm on Aug 30, 2010. - Bernama

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