Khamis, 18 Ogos 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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CT scans to spot appendicitis up sharply in U.S.

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 11:20 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of U.S. children and adults getting computed tomography scans to diagnose appendicitis has shot up since the 1990s, according to a study -- raising questions about whether the technology is being over used.

In the study, carried in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, researchers found that across U.S. emergency departments, the percentage of adult appendicitis patients who were diagnosed using CT scans rose from just 6 percent in 1996 to 69 percent in 2006.

Among children, that figure went from zero to 60 percent, said researchers led by Daniel Tsze, a paediatrician at Columbian University Medical Centre in New York.

Tsze said he could not say whether those recent numbers are "too high" because CT is the most accurate test for appendicitis, which is likely a major reason for the dramatic upswing in its use.

But there is also no evidence as yet that using CT improves patients' outcomes, he added. If it did, the downsides of radiation exposure and cost could be worth it.

"There are definitely situations where it's indicated, but I don't think it's indicated in every case," he told Reuters Health.

One reason for the CT surge in diagnosing children's appendicitis is that the technology has improved in recent years. A scan can now be done so quickly that even young children can hold still long enough, whereas in the past they would have had to be sedated.

Young children are also less able to talk about their symptoms, and in cases where there is confusion about the cause, a CT scan might be in order.

"A lot of people are pushing for a combination of strategies," Tsze said, noting that there is a move to encourage a more judicious use of CT scans in cases of suspected appendicitis.

An alternative to a CT scan is ultrasound, which involves no radiation -- though it is not as accurate.

Another study published this month found that for all types of emergency room visits, interviewing patients about symptoms and getting a good history usually contributed far more to a doctor's ability to make the right diagnosis than either CT or ultrasound scans.

In a separate finding, Tsze's team found that children with appendicitis were less likely than adults to get pain medication. In 2006, 70 percent of adults were given painkillers, versus only 43 percent of children.

In particular, children were less likely to get narcotic painkillers, perhaps due to worries about safety. But Tsze said studies have shown narcotics are safe and effective for children's appendicitis.

(Reporting by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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China-U.S. basketball 'friendly' erupts into brawl

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 10:18 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden built trust with China in Beijing's corridors of power, goodwill between the two nations unravelled Thursday night on a nearby basketball court, where players beat each other up and even a chair was thrown.

A 'friendship' game between Washington's Georgetown Hoyas and Chinese professional side the Bayi Military Rockets erupted into a brawl as the match wound down at Beijing's Olympic Stadium. It was unclear what triggered the fighting.

Players from American Georgetown University men's basketball team and China's Bayi men's basketball team fight during a basketball friendly game at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena August 18, 2011. (REUTERS/China Daily)

Players traded blows, someone in the crowd flung a chair, and fans tossed full water bottles at the Hoyas players and coaches as they headed to the locker room, writing off the rest of the game.

In China, state media did not report on the incident and microblogs were mostly silent as censors worked quickly to delete any references to the fight.

"Even the news about the fight between the Chinese and U.S. basketball teams needs to be cut," said a microblogger named Yinnu.

The brawl broke out one night after Biden, who is in Beijing on a four-day visit to discuss U.S.-Chinese economic relations, attended a Georgetown game against another Chinese club. That game, which Georgetown won, passed without a fist fight.

The games are part of a "China-U.S. Basketball Friendship Match" in Beijing, according to the Washington Post. The Hoyas intended to continue with the rest of their 10-day trip in China, including other scheduled matches in Shanghai.

The Bayi Rockets is a professional basketball team associated with China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). The name "Bayi" refers to August 1, 1927, the founding date of the PLA.

GOODWILL "GONE"

Just as many of China's Asian neighbours say its increasing aggression is to blame for trouble in the South China Sea, some Hoyas fans took to Twitter to accuse the Chinese team of starting the tussle.

"All that goodwill Yao Ming garnered for Chinese people in USA, GONE," tweeted a person with the username of JAIMECITOU, referring to the recently retired Chinese basketball star. "Not first time Chinese Team fought on court ... Disgrace."

Another user called cgallaher3 said: "All out brawl at a basketball game in China. This is why the NBA won't expand there."

After an estimated half-dozen individual altercations on the court, some Chinese onlookers joined the fracas, the Washington Post reported late on Thursday.

As the brawl spilled beyond the court, an unidentified Bayi player pushed Georgetown's Aaron Bowen to the ground before repeatedly punching the sophomore guard while sitting on his chest, the paper said.

"Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams," coach John Thompson III said in a statement on Georgetown's website. "We sincerely regret that this situation occurred."

"We remain grateful for the opportunity our student-athletes are having to engage in a sport they love here in China, while strengthening their understanding of a nation we respect and admire at Georgetown University."

Biden's office declined to comment and calls to the China Basketball Association went unanswered.

A staff member from the news office from China's General Administration of Sports told Reuters: "I personally heard about it this morning when I surfed the Internet, but our office leaders are on a business trip, so we have no comments and any information to publish so far."

The American team will visit cultural sites, participate in basketball clinics with Chinese students and play four exhibition matches against teams from the Chinese National Basketball Association. The players will also participate in the Nike Festival of Sport in Shanghai.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Sabrina Mao; Additional reporting by Don Durfee and Jeff Mason; Editing by Ken Wills and Daniel Magnowski)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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China-U.S. basketball 'friendly' erupts into brawl

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 09:47 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden built trust with China in Beijing's corridors of power, goodwill between the two nations unravelled on a nearby basketball court, where players beat each other up and even a chair was thrown.

A 'friendship' game between Washington's Georgetown Hoyas and Chinese professional side the Bayi Military Rockets erupted into a brawl as the match wound down at Beijing's Olympic Stadium. It was unclear what triggered the fighting.

Players from American Georgetown University men's basketball team and China's Bayi men's basketball team fight during a basketball friendly game at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena August 18, 2011. (REUTERS/China Daily)

Players traded blows, someone in the crowd flung a chair, and fans tossed full water bottles at the Hoyas players and coaches as they headed to the locker room, writing off the rest of the game.

In China, state media did not report on the incident and microblogs were mostly silent as censors worked quickly to delete any references to the fight.

"Even the news about the fight between the Chinese and U.S. basketball teams needs to be cut," said a microblogger named Yinnu.

The brawl broke out one night after Biden, who is in Beijing on a four-day visit to discuss U.S.-Chinese economic relations, attended a Georgetown game against another Chinese club. That game, which Georgetown won, passed without a fist fight.

The games are part of a "China-U.S. Basketball Friendship Match" in Beijing, according to the Washington Post. The Hoyas intended to continue with the rest of their 10-day trip in China, including other scheduled matches in Shanghai.

GOODWILL "GONE"

Just as many of China's Asian neighbours say its increasing aggression is to blame for trouble in the South China Sea, some Hoyas fans took to Twitter to accuse the Chinese team of starting the tussle.

"All that goodwill Yao Ming garnered for Chinese people in USA, GONE," tweeted a person with the username of JAIMECITOU, referring to the recently retired Chinese basketball star. "Not first time Chinese Team fought on court ... Disgrace."

Another user called cgallaher3 said: "All out brawl at a basketball game in China. This is why the NBA won't expand there."

After an estimated half-dozen individual altercations on the court, some Chinese onlookers joined the fracas, the Washington Post reported late on Thursday.

As the brawl spilled beyond the court, an unidentified Bayi player pushed Georgetown's Aaron Bowen to the ground before repeatedly punching the sophomore guard while sitting on his chest, the paper said.

"Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams," coach John Thompson III said in a statement on Georgetown's website. "We sincerely regret that this situation occurred."

"We remain grateful for the opportunity our student-athletes are having to engage in a sport they love here in China, while strengthening their understanding of a nation we respect and admire at Georgetown University."

Biden's office declined to comment and calls to the China Basketball Association went unanswered.

A staff member from the news office from China's General Administration of Sports told Reuters: "I personally heard about it this morning when I surfed the Internet, but our office leaders are on a business trip, so we have no comments and any information to publish so far."

The American team will visit cultural sites, participate in basketball clinics with Chinese students and play four exhibition matches against teams from the Chinese National Basketball Association. The players will also participate in the Nike Festival of Sport in Shanghai.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Sabrina Mao; Additional reporting by Don Durfee and Jeff Mason; Editing by Ken Wills and Daniel Magnowski)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio


Inspiring debate at the Merdeka Award Roundtables

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:57 AM PDT

The Merdeka Award Roundtables presents a series of inspiring discussion on issues of interest to the nation.

THE Merdeka Award would be holding a series of TV talk shows, called the Merdeka Award Roundtables, in an effort to inspire debate and discussion on key issues of interest to Malaysians.

The first of these Roundtables, hosted in partnership with broadcaster Astro, will be aired tomorrow on Astro Awani (Ch 501) at 8.30pm, and will centre on the topic "The Spirit Of Merdeka: Nurturing A Nation Of Visionaries".

Announcing the inaugural broadcast recently, Mohammad Medan Abdullah, Secretary to the Board of Trustees of the Merdeka Award, said: "The Merdeka Award is Malaysia's foremost award to recognise outstanding contribution to the people of Malaysia. It is therefore apt that we not just present the award annually to deserving recipients, but also create opportunities that will inspire Malaysians to think about how they too can play a role in the development of our country.

"A Roundtable such as this, which brings together leading figures from Malaysia's corporate, academic and social spheres, is the ideal platform for us to discuss issues which are critical to the future of this nation. We hope to hold a series of similar Roundtables through the course of the year, with each event featuring a topic for discussion that is current and timely, and that resonates with Malaysians, especially the post-Merdeka generation, who are the future of Malaysia," Mohammad Medan said in a press release.

As such, the distillation, discussion and debate of the topic through the Merdeka Award Roundtables brings to life the spirit of the Merdeka Award – the liberation of mind and spirit, and the pursuit of excellence.

"It is about raising human potential for Malaysia's progress and development. Viewers can certainly expect an honest, animated and in-depth discussion on thought-provoking topics amongst a panel of opinion leaders who are visionaries in their own right," said Mohammad Medan.

The Merdeka Award Roundtables will feature a panel of respected thought leaders from different arenas and industries in the country, who will provide interesting insights and views on the topic.

Hosted by TV and radio personality Norina Yahya, the first Merdeka Award Roundtables will feature writer and social commentator Dina Zaman, Merdeka Award recipient and Professor at Department of Physics University of Malaya Harith Ahmad; member of the Merdeka Award Board of Trustees and historian Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim; secretary to the Merdeka Award Board of Trustees Mohammad Medan and managing director of global management consulting firm the HAY Group Tharuma Rajah.

Commenting on the partnership, Henry Tan, COO of Astro said: "Astro aspires to enrich lives of Malaysians with the best of international, regional and local content, including intelligent debate and discourse on issues affecting all Malaysians to the far reaches of the country via the Merdeka Award Roundtables. We are pleased to support the Merdeka Award Roundtables, as it complements the Astro Awani philosphy – of providing in-depth analysis and balanced coverage of news and current affairs.

"In celebration of Malaysia's 54th Independence Day celebrations, Astro customers will be able to enjoy more than 50 new premieres emphasising the best of 1Malaysia through the 'Negaraku, The Best Of 1Malaysia' campaign, showcasing titles such as In Person: Unsung Heroes on Astro Awani, Arena Sukan: DYMM Sultan Azlan and Marina Chin on Astro Arena (Ch 801)," he added.

The one-hour Merdeka Award Roundtables will be broadcast tomorrow on Astro Awani at 8.30pm, with repeats scheduled for Aug 21, 22, 27 and Sept 15.

The Merdeka Award recipients for 2011 will be announced on Aug 22 by the Merdeka Award Board of Trustees, represented by the Chairman of the Board and President of Petronas Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas. Award presentations will be held on Oct 10.

About the Merdeka Award

The award was established by its founders, namely Petronas, ExxonMobil and Shell on Aug 27, 2007, to recognise those who have made outstanding and lasting contributions to the nation and the people of Malaysia in their respective fields.

The choice of name, Merdeka Award, reflects the founding members' aim to commemorate the true spirit of independence, which transcends the conventional definition of national sovereignty. It explores the liberation of the mind and spirit – factors which foster the realisation of human potential and the pursuit of excellence.

Each year, the annual Merdeka Award is conferred on individuals and/or organisations whose excellent work and achievements have made an outstanding impact on the nation and its people in the following categories: Education and Community, Environment, Health, Science and Technology, Outstanding Scholastic Achievement and Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia.

The award categories reflect focus areas that are regarded as instrumental to the overall growth and development of a nation. One award will be give for each of the five categories stated.

In the event that in a given year, two individuals and/or organisations are deemed to be equally deserving of recognition, the award will be shared.

The Merdeka Award Recipient will be awarded with a certificate, a trophy and prize money of RM500,000.

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Just a click away

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:53 AM PDT

Red FM's website offers music videos and much more.

IT'S the website with Today's Best Music, the latest happenings in the world of entertainment as well as the hottest gossip – all at your fingertips when you visit www.red.fm

Packed with entertaining content, the website is designed to do just that while you listen to Red FM on the Internet all day long wherever you are. Keep track of the current songs and newest hits on the music charts with Red FM's Fresh Forty Music Chart (Saturday, 3pm-7pm) hosted by Arnold.

In the meantime, check out the many videos that are posted on the website. Red FM's Video of the Day features a different video each weekday, ranging from music videos to funny and inspiring ones.

It's also a star-studded affair online with taped interviews of artistes such as Il Volo, David Archuleta and Jang Keun Suk who were in town for their performances.

If laughter is what gets you through the day, get a kick out of the hilarious hijinks and antics of the Red FM deejays as videos capturing those moments are posted on the website.

Besides music related content, the website delves further into the exciting world of entertainment with bite-sized gossip about the hottest celebrities in addition to reviews and information on the latest movies.

You can view trailers of the movies and even pick up passes to those movies and more with the many contests organised by the station.

Fret not if you missed out on hearing the giveaways of the week as you can check them out on the website and get to know more about the deejays at the same time.

Apart from the information on their shows, you can access the deejays' blogs via the website. You can also follow the daily happenings on their shows as the deejays post updates on the Red FM (Malaysia) Facebook Group page (www.facebook.com/redfm.my) and 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 Prai: 107.6 FM; Ipoh, Perak: 106.4 FM; Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and 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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Kutcher back with the laughs

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 04:31 PM PDT

ASHTON Kutcher will play "an Internet billionaire with a broken heart" when he arrives as the new star of Two And A Half Men next month.

CBS Entertainment Nina Tassler shared this tidbit about the much-anticipated cast change for TV's biggest sitcom during a session with television reporters recently. Kutcher, of course, will fill the void left by Charlie Sheen, who made a stormy exit from Men last season.

Kutcher's character will be named Walden Schmidt, confided the CBS boss, who added that Schmidt has no family connection to the characters played by continuing stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones. They portrayed the brother and nephew of Sheen's departed character.

Tassler would not confirm or deny reports that the new season of Men begins with the death of Sheen's character, Charlie Harper, and a funeral.

"The mystery is part of the marketing," she said.

Men begins its ninth season on Sept 19 in the United States with the first of a two-part kickoff that establishes Kutcher's character.

Kutcher's first week on the job begins a new chapter for Men after a tumultuous conclusion to Sheen's eight-season run as a fast-living, womanising cad. Sheen's portrayal drew inspiration from his own life of sex sprees, serial marriages and substance abuse, which spiralled into clashes with the show's studio as well as its creator, Chuck Lorre, and CBS. He was fired in March and the season was shuttered early.

Predictably, Tassler voiced excitement about the show's new star.

Kutcher, she said, "is an extraordinarily professional, talented, funny, gifted actor who comes with a tremendous amount of commitment and enthusiasm".

"The show will be as irreverent as it has ever been," she promised. "Our Program Practices people are already on high alert."

Even so, Kutcher and his Men co-stars were conspicuously absent from the recent sessions of the Television Critics Association, which was visited by cast members from several of CBS' new autumn shows as well as from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the veteran crime drama that is welcoming Ted Danson to the fold for its upcoming 12th season.

Asked why the Men gang wasn't on hand, Tassler replied that the show is in production. It had resumed shooting and a break for a meeting across town with reporters would have been too disruptive, she explained.

"There is a tremendous amount of energy and focus and attention," Tassler said. "I would be lying if I didn't say when everybody walked on that set on Monday, you could cut the air with a knife."

Tassler was asked what she had learned from her experience with Sheen.

"Oh, where do I begin?" she replied with mock weariness, but hastily insisted she preferred to look forward, not behind.

Then, when asked if, in the future, CBS might introduce new policies for casting actors who are known for erratic behaviour, she cracked, "That would probably be every actor in the business." – AP

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The Star Online: Sports

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Nicol and Jonathan Power to lead ambassador programme in Latvia

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 06:21 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Five-time world champion Nicol David and former world champion Jonathan Power, two of the greatest names in world squash, will lead the inaugural World Squash Federation (WSF) Ambassador Programme in Latvia in November.

Nicol, who has been the world No. 1 player since August, 2006 and Jonathan will visit the Latvian capital from Nov 25-27.

The duo will be joined by a coaching guru and a refereeing instructor to highlight the appeal of squash to the public and the media.

While the players will integrate with the local squash community and media, referees and coaches from Latvia and neighbouring countries will be invited to attend workshops that will enable them to take home a reach seam of information and techniques.

Nicol is arguably Malaysia's most successful sports star of all-time, winning a record eighth National Sportswoman of the Year award this year.

Nicol, who will turn 28 on Aug 26 has won the Asian women's squash title unopposed since 1998 – when aged just 14.

She has won 54 Women's International Squash Players Association (Wispa) title since turning pro in 2000, including a record-equalling fifth World Open crown last September.

Nicol will be gunning for a record sixth world title in Rotterdam from Oct 28 to Nov 6.

Nicol, who won the Australian Open title in Canberra last Sunday, said that she is happy to be picked as one of two WSF Ambassador Programme to Latvia in November.

Canadian Power, who became the first North American world number one in 1999, retired from the PSA World Tour in March 2006 after a glittering career which included 37 titles, including the World Open, the British Open and four Tournament of Champions' crowns.

One of the most creative players of all-time, Power was still able to win his seventh Canadian national title two years after his retirement.

The 37-year-old is now a much-sought-after coach in Toronto where, amongst others, he has taken Pakistani prodigy Maria Toor Pakay under his wing.

"We couldn't wish for two more appropriate ambassadors for our sport to help spread the word in Latvia and beyond, and we are thrilled that Nicol and Jonathon have been able to find time in their busy schedules to join us in Riga," said WSF CEO Andrew Shelley.

The venue in Riga will be the Zelta Bowling and Squash Centre, an imposing squash facility featuring eight courts and many other sporting and leisure options.

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Kim Swee looking for consistency from National Under-23 squad

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 06:21 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee wants his players to be consistent in their training-cum-playing stint in Slovakia.

Kim Swee's boys beat MFK Dolny Kubin 2-0 on Tuesday to bounce back from their first defeat in the playing stint to Hungarian Division One outfit Honved Budapest 1-4 in Budapest on Aug 9.

Winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor was on target in the ninth minute from a freekick to take his goal tally in the tour to three. Striker Ahmad Hazwan Bakri scored in the 37th minute to notch his second goal in Slovakia.

"It was a good disciplined display from the players but we need to maintain our consistency with two more matches remaining," said Kim Swee in a telephone interview from Vion, Slovakia.

"The team struggled in the first half to adapt to the tempo of the match but the first goal gave confidence to the players and they played much better after that.

"We were under pressure in the second half as our opponents pressed forward but the defence rose to the occasion and managed to finish the match with a clean-sheet."

Kim Swee also praised the midfield combination of K. Gurusamy and Abdul Shukur Jusoh.

The team was without Guru's usual midfield partner Gary Steven Robbat who picked up a groin injury in the match against Topvar Topolcany on July 30.

"Guru and Shukur combined well in midfield. Their understanding and movement played a big role in the win," said Kim Swee.

Earlier, the Under-23 team beat three club sides Bodva Moldava (1-0), MFK Topvar Topolcany (2-1) and Liptovsky Mikulas (2-1) before the loss to Honved. The team will play two more friendlies against Slovakian club sides FC Nitra (Aug 23) and FC Levice (Aug 26).

The Slovakia stint is being used to prepare Kim Swee's boys for the final round of the Asian Zone Olympic qualifiers next month.

Malaysia will start their qualifying campaign against Japan on Sept 21 followed by two home matches against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27).

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Devan tinkering around to give Selangor more bite up front

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 06:21 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Cup competition kicks off in less than 20 days but Selangor are still tinkering with their line-up.

Selangor coach K. Devan is racing against time to come up with a winning combination in attack to make a serious claim for the coveted trophy which the Red Giants last won in 2005.

"We need a fresh breath in our forward line and especially players with paces such as Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal and Azidan Saruddin," said Devan after watching his boys go down to Kelantan 0-1 in a friendly game played at the Shah Alam Stadium on Wednesday.

He said that he would be experimenting with the two national midfielders in the forward position to inject more bite up front. Devan looked frustrated with his boys' poor finishing against Kelantan despite having had good possession in the opponents' box.

"I have no other options but to experiment with a new combination of players up front because we will be fully tested when the going gets tough in the knock-out stages," said Devan.

Selangor have been far from impressive this season and are now left with a serious problem in attack following the departure of national striker Mohd Safee Sali to Indonesian club Pelita Jaya FC in February. Skipper Mohd Amri Yahyah, Rudie Ramli, Mohd Fadzli Saari and R. Sreetharan are the other forwards in the squad.

Devan started off with a bang in his debut season with Selangor by winning the treble – Charity Shield, FA Cup and Super League titles – in 2009.

The following year, Selangor managed to retain the Charity Shield and the Super League crown but their fortune seems to have deserted them this year as they have nothing to show in the trophy cabinet so far.

"Defensively we are getting stronger with the return of Mohd Nasriq Baharom from injury. He has combined well with Yosri Derma Raju in the centreback position while P. Gunalan and Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar are quite stable in the right and left back positions respectively.

"All we need is that extra push in the forward line. I am sure the boys don't want to repeat the same mistakes in the Malaysia Cup in the last two seasons when we were eliminated in the knock-out stages," said Devan, who is optimistic they have a fighting chance to bid for their record 33rd Malaysia Cup title this year.

Selangor are drawn in Group D with Kuala Lumpur, T-Team and Police. In four warm-up matches played thus far, Selangor drew with Felda United (0-0), beat Armed Forces (1-0), beat Malaysia (1-0) and lost to defending Malaysia Cup champions Kelantan (0-1).

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The Star Online: Business

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Oil price falls on economic news and demand worries

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 05:24 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Oil fell sharply Thursday along with a broad sell-off in stocks triggered by ongoing worries about the global economy.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for September delivery fell US$5.20, or 5.9 percent, to finish at $82.38 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, used to price many international oil varieties, dropped $3.61 to end at $106.99 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In the U.S., two reports raised concerns about demand for gasoline, which is made from oil. First, more people than expected applied for unemployment benefits last week. And prices for gas, food and clothing rose last month.

Higher prices at a time when more people are out of work means Americans could drive even less than they do now. A private survey released earlier this week said U.S. motorists have reduced gasoline purchases for 21 straight weeks.

Prices have swung wildly with every report about the U.S. economy. Besides data about unemployment and prices, a private research group forecast sluggish growth for the rest of the year. Oil demand was supposed to pick up in the second half of 2011, but traders now wonder if it will happen.

"People are getting spooked," oil trader Stephen Schork says.

Meanwhile Libyan rebels claimed control over the country's last functioning oil refinery. Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, says it's reasonable to expect Moammar Gadhafi's departure and a resumption of at least some Libyan exports by the end of the year. Libya's daily exports of almost 2 million barrels of crude have been shut down since unrest began in that country six months ago.

"Oil won't be coming out of there immediately, but it'll be sooner than a lot of people think," Lynch says.

The dollar rose Thursday as the euro and other currencies fell on worries about the health of European banks and the broader regional economy. A stronger dollar pushes down oil prices because oil is priced in dollars and becomes less attractive to investors with foreign currency as the dollar rises.

In other Nymex trading for September contracts, heating oil lost 8.68 cents, or 2.9 percent, to finish at $2.8748 per gallon and gasoline futures dropped 8.71 cents, or 3 percent, to $2.7832 per gallon. Natural gas lost 4.1 cents to end the day at $3.892 per 1,000 cubic feet. - AP

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Hewlett-Packard posts higher 3Q earnings

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 05:22 PM PDT

PALO ALTO, California: Hewlett-Packard Co. reported an increase in its third-quarter net income on Thursday, but the technology company gave a lower-than-expected outlook for the current quarter and cut its outlook for the year for the second time.

While its commercial businesses remained healthy, HP said quarterly revenue in its customer-facing businesses fell 15 percent.

HP reported its earnings before the markets closed Thursday after saying it plans to spin off its PC business and stop selling its webOS tablet and mobile phones. The world's largest maker of printers and personal computers has been working to transform itself into more of a technology services company, like its rival IBM.

The company earned $1.93 billion, or 93 cents per share, in the latest quarter. That's up 9 percent from $1.77 billion, or 75 cents per share, a year earlier. Its adjusted earnings were $1.10 per share, a penny above analyst expectations.

HP's revenue climbed less than 2 percent to $31.2 billion from $30.7 billion. This matched analysts' average expectations, according to FactSet.

HP said its software revenue rose 20 percent to $780 million, and its services revenue climbed 4 percent to $9.09 billion, while revenue in its printer segment fell 1 percent to $6.09 billion and revenue in its personal systems group, which includes PCs, fell 3 percent to $9.59 billion.

For the current quarter, HP forecast adjusted earnings of $1.12 to $1.16 per share, below analysts' average expectation for $1.32 per share. The company expects revenue of $32.1 billion to $32.5 billion, shy of analysts' estimate of $33.98 billion.

The company also lowered its full-year guidance slightly. It now expects revenue of $127.2 billion to $127.6 billion. In May, it forecast revenue of $129 billion to $130 billion, a slightly downward revision from its February outlook. Analysts are predicting $129.12 billion in revenue.

HP expects adjusted earnings of $4.82 to $4.86 per share for the year, below its May outlook of $5 per share and below analysts' estimate of $5.01 per share.

Shares of Palo Alto, California-based HP fell $1.88, or 6 percent, to close at $29.51. They fell another 68 cents, or 2.3 percent, after hours to $28.83. - AP

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European bank stocks hurt by borrowing crunch

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 05:20 PM PDT

PARIS: European bank stocks tanked Thursday as fears mounted about their exposure to the region's debt crisis and weakening economy.

The stock prices of Britain's Barclays and France's Societe Generale led the way down, falling 11.5 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Germany's Commerzbank fell 10 percent.

Analysts said the plunge was partly a reaction to evidence that European banks are being forced to pay more for the short-term loans they need to finance day-to-day operations.

Some European banks with heavy exposure to the debts of Greece and other weak countries are relying on loans from the European Central Bank because other private banks are reluctant to do business with them. The ECB said one bank, which it didn't identify, had paid above-market rates to borrow $500 million a day for seven days.

No bank had requested such a loan for nearly six months. Analysts said fears about one bank's troubles are enough to spark concerns about the entire industry.

"These are worrying signs," said Neil MacKinnon, an economist at VTB Capital in London. "You could think of it as a mini-Lehman moment: There is the risk that a major eurozone bank might be a casualty."

In 2008, the investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, causing the global credit markets to freeze up. Banks refused to lend to each other because they feared more failures and greater losses. Companies and consumers couldn't get loans.

In a move that could compound fears about European banks' ability to borrow, U.S. regulators are stepping up scrutiny of the banks' U.S.-based subsidiaries, according to two people familiar with the situation. Banks are meeting more frequently than usual with supervisors from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the New York State Banking Department, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential matters of bank supervision.

Analysts said that regulators are pressing the U.S. subsidiaries to keep more cash on hand, in case their European parent companies falter. Federal Reserve data show that foreign-based banks are storing more cash here in the U.S. - $127 billion near the beginning of August, up from $86.1 billion in June.

A similar spike occurred before the 2008 crisis, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Mark Pawlak said Thursday. He said the memory of that cash crunch is so fresh, it takes less to get investors worried. Fears tend to feed on themselves, causing more banks to hoard money instead of lending to each other.

"Any signs of a funding crisis brings back horrific memories," Pawlak said. "There's this visceral reaction."

Plunging stocks are not the only sign that investors are pulling back from European banks. They are also charging more to insure the banks' bonds against the risk of default, said Peter Tchir, a former trader who now runs the hedge fund TF Market Advisors.

Markets are responding ferociously to rumors in part because no one knows how much Greek government debt each bank holds. That leaves all of them vulnerable to speculation, such as about which bank borrowed $500 million from the ECB, Tchir said.

Fears of a potential default by Greece intensified on Thursday after at least five countries demanded that the Greek government set aside cash as collateral in exchange for their contributions to its bailout. On Tuesday, Finland struck a private deal requiring the Greek government to set money aside. By Thursday, four more countries were demanding similar terms.

As Greece sets aside more money as collateral, the government there has fewer options for digging out of its debt hole. The amount of cash needed to satisfy the five lender nations probably is not enough to scuttle the rescue entirely, but it could drive up the overall cost of the bailout.

It also reflects growing rifts between European nations about how to solve the debt crisis there. Until there is a long-term solution, analysts say, the pain for European banks will continue.

Poor economic news in the U.S. helped fuel the flight from bank shares in Europe and on Wall Street. Shares of big U.S. banks plunged faster than the broader market indexes. Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. closed more than 6 percent lower. Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo slid more than 4.5 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average closed 4.3 percent lower.

"People are putting the pieces together," said Will Hedden, a sales trader with IG Index.

Banks have also been under pressure because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier this week that their countries were developing a plan to tax financial transactions. That would cut into banks' profits, analysts said. - AP

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Teen lovebirds in a knot after kidnap scam

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 04:06 PM PDT

WHEN a 17-year-old girl disappeared six days ago, her parents were distraught and approached the media to help find her.

They were further distressed when they received a call demanding RM50,000 ransom on Tuesday, and immediately lodged a police report.

However, on Wednesday when the girl was found, the relief felt by her 49-year-old father and 40-year-old mother quickly turned into despair.

Police told them their daughter was suspected to have conspired with her boyfriend to trick them into paying the RM50,000 ransom, reported Kosmo!.

The girl and her jobless 19-year-old boyfriend were arrested while getting into a car in Saujana Puchong at about 9pm.

Subang Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar said police tracked the teenage couple following investigations into a threatening phone call made by an unknown man to the father demanding RM50,000 for her release.

The two are being held at the USJ8 Subang Jaya police station and their case is being investigated under Section 384 of the Penal Code for blackmail.

> Harian Metro reported the arrest of a "bomoh" who is suspected to have swindled his victims out of millions of ringgit in Perak.

Hilir Perak OCPD Asst Comm Goh Kok Liang said the man was detained after police received a report from a woman in Rungkup.

He said at least 10 women in Kuala Lumpur and Teluk Intan had fallen victim to the man.

The man, in his late 30s, told the women he could solve their marital problems and offered them two payment options - sex or jewellery.

One of his clients, who only wanted to be known as Rohana, 35, said she met the suspect in June and was shocked that he knew about her marital problems.

Reluctant to sleep with him, she said she handed over about RM10,000 worth in jewellery as payment for helping her with her problems.

"Not only did I lose my jewellery, the problems between me and my husband became worse," she said.

Other News & Views is compiled from the vernacular newspapers (Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil dailies). As such, stories are grouped according to the respective language/medium. Where a paragraph begins with this > sign, it denotes a separate news item.

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Curry lovers unite after dispute boils over

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 04:06 PM PDT

A GROUP of friends in Singapore have come together to organise a "cook and share a pot of curry" movement and to declare this Sunday National Cook Curry Day.

China Press and Nanyang Siang Pau reported that the movement has attracted over 53,000 followers and the organisers have urged them to cook curry on Sunday between 11am and 11.30am.

The movement was started following reports of a dispute between a family from China who complained about their Singaporean Indian neighbour to the community mediation centre in their area.

The family from China said they could not stand the smell of the curry that the neighbour was fond of cooking.

After mediation, the Indian family agreed to only cook curry when the Chinese family was not around.

The dailies reported that many new immigrants were disrespectful of local culture after the case was highlighted in the media.

The organisers also urged their followers to share their pot of curry with their neighbours, friends and newly-arrived immigrants.

> Sin Chew reported about a Form Five student in Kangar who gave birth to a baby girl in the school toilet.

The girl gave birth alone in the toilet cubicle at 5am on Wednesday.

A security guard who heard the baby's cries in the early morning followed the sound to the toilet and found one of the cubicles locked.

The guard knocked on the door but the girl refused to open it until a teacher came and persuaded her to do so.

The girl claimed she was raped in October last year and the teacher lodged a police report.

The girl and the baby were reported to be in stable condition.

The daily also reported on a woman, also in Kangar, who pulled the hair of two women who were involved in a sex threesome with her husband in their living room.

During the 4pm incident on Tuesday, the woman came home from work and found the front door locked.

After knocking several times, the wife sought help from neighbours to break down the door, only to find her husband engaged in sexual acts with the women.

Shocked, the wife attacked the women while the husband ran away.

The wife has lodged a police report.

Other News & Views is compiled from the vernacular newspapers (Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil dailies). As such, stories are grouped according to the respective language/medium. Where a paragraph begins with this > sign, it denotes a separate news item.

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Committee against move to relocate temple

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 04:06 PM PDT

MALAYSIA Nanban reported that the committee members of Sri Muniswarar Temple situated at 5th Mile Jalan Tampin in Seremban are strongly against efforts to move the temple to another location.

Temple secretary K. Ganesan told Senawang state assemblyman P. Guna of their opposition to the move at a meeting on Sunday. He said the 160-year-old temple was demolished in 2005 due to a road expansion but rebuilt later at the same location.

Now the authorities want to relocate the temple to the nearby Sri Maha Mariamman temple.

"There will be problems in the future for the Sri Muniswarar Temple if it is relocated as a private individual owns the land at the new site," said Ganesan.

> Makkal Osai reported that popular South Indian comedians Vadivelu and Singamuthu have allegedly been cheated of RM4.5mil by five people in a land deal.

The incident came to light when the original owner, retired bank manager S. Palaniappan, 74, approached police seeking to have his property restored.

Police said investigations revealed the original landowner T.K. Ramachandran's five legal heirs had given power of attorney to Singamuthu in 2000. Singamuthu had sold the land to Vadivelu in 2002.

The five legal heirs had also obtained a loan of RM1.2mil from the Tamilnadu Industrial Investment Corporation Limited (TIIC). When they failed to pay back the amount, the TIIC auctioned the land in 2003 and Palaniappan had bought it.

Police said the five who had prepared forged documents and given Singamuthu power of attorney have gone missing.

Other News & Views is compiled from the vernacular newspapers (Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil dailies). As such, stories are grouped according to the respective language/medium. Where a paragraph begins with this > sign, it denotes a separate news item.

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Metro watch

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 01:24 AM PDT

Anniversary gift

Lee Biscuits Pte Ltd is celebrating their 77th anniversary with a RM15 limited edition gift pack as a gesture of appreciation for the continuous support from their loyal customers. Those interested can get their hands on the gift pack can call 07-6868 333.

Handicraft's lure

Looking for unique and beautifully carved wooden and traditional batek and ceramic products for souvenirs or home decoration? Check out the Pahang Handicraft Corporation complex at Kampung Pandan II, Kuantan-Terengganu bypass. Opens from Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm. For details, call 09-538 5677.

Change of number

The Muar Inland Revenue Department at Sungai Abong here has changed its telephone number from 06-9527000 to 06-9563100, beginning June 1.

Zero waste zone

Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) had launched the Zero Waste Zone 2011 and it is MPK's aspiration to ensure that Kuantan Town Centre becomes a zero waste zone from Jalan Tanah Putih in front of Giant Hypermarket to Teluk Cempedak. For details, call 09-5121 555/666 .

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Single mother works hard to care for sons and her widowed mum

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 01:17 AM PDT

JOHOR BARU: Life is not easy for most single mothers but pint-sized Ana Ramlan, 44, is a one strong-willed woman who wants to put behind all her miseries.

The former food products sales promoter for 15 years, have to singlehandedly take care of her two sons aged two and six years old after her marriage failed in 1998.

Apart from taking care of her two young children, Ana also has to look after her widowed mother who suffers from amnesia.

In 2004, she started a home-based nursery business at her house in Taman Pelangi to supplement her income as she hardly received maintenance money from her ex-husband.

"It's high time for the relevant authorities to go after ex-husbands who cuci tangan (wash off their hands) from providing money to their former wives and children,'' Ana said in an interview with StarMetro.

She sarcastically remarked if some people could set up the Obedient Wives's Club, then maybe there should be the Obedient and Responsible Husbands and Ex-Husbands Club too.

Her former husband has since remarried and now lives in Kuala Lumpur, a successful otak-otak (Johor's traditional savoury) supplier who drives a BMW car.

In 2003, Ana attended a training programme for single mothers organised by the Johor Darul Takzim Family Development Foundation to teach single mothers skills such as tailoring, baking and childcare.

Apart from selling the plants at home, Ana also sold her products at pasar tani (farmer's market) around Johor Baru where she met her good friend Rahimah A. Hamid, 45, who is now her business partner.

In July last year, Ana left her full-time job and together with Rahimah, opened Hentian Hijau Nursery located at the junction of Jalan Padi Mahsuri, Bandar Baru Uda, renting the premises from Koperasi Masjid Jamek Bandar Baru Uda.

The nursery gets its supply of plants, fertilisers, soils, pots and garden accessories and ornamentals from suppliers in Johor Baru, Pasir Gudang, Permas Jaya, Pontian, Ulu Tiram and Yong Peng.

"We are fortunate as our suppliers are very understanding by allowing us to take their goods on credits as well as the mosque committee for charging us a reasonable rent,'' said Ana.

She said the Federal Agriculture and Marketing Agency was also helpful by introducing the suppliers to them and recommending the mosque committee to rent out the place for their nursery business.

Ana said business was encouraging as the two have a stream of regular customers who spread good words to their friends and also loyal customers from their pasar tani days.

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JPJ to go on statewide online tour

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 01:16 AM PDT

KUALA TERENGGANU: The Terengganu Road Transport Department (JPJ) will embark on a statewide tour to promote their online services to the locals.

State JPJ director Abdul Rahman Emang Anyie said the promotion aimed at spreading the benefits of the online services to the masses, especially those in the rural areas.

"The online services will ensure customers could settle their matters fast and efficiently.

"The services must be promoted as only 5 percent of customers in the state are using the services," he said adding that, the majority still used counter services.

Abdul Rahman said people should not be surprised if the department's online counter was located at 'odd' places such as pasar tani.

"I have instructed department personnel to reach everyone.

"Besides shopping malls or hypermarkets, we wont hesitate to reach the people in places such as pasar tani,' he told newsmen after launching the online counter at a hypermarket here recently.

He added online services could also lessen the dependency on middlemen or third parties to renew road tax or licence.

"Customers do not have to be constrained to settle their stuff within working hours as the services is 24 hours," he said.

Abdul Rahman also reminded the people to update their address should they moved houses.

"Providing latest address is for the people's own convenience in settling matters such as traffic summonses," he said.

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