Jumaat, 19 Ogos 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio


'The Office' creator Ricky Gervais in new TV show

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 03:29 AM PDT

LONDON (AP): Ricky Gervais, creator of the worldwide comedy hit "The Office" says his star-studded new TV show will focus on the misadventures of a dwarf actor.

Gervais, the insult-slinging host of the Golden Globes, has already tapped Steve Carell, Johnny Depp and Liam Neeson to make guest appearances on the mockumentary, called "Life's Too Short."

The show follows the daily life of a dwarf actor - played by Warwick Davis - who runs a talent agency for fellow dwarves but keeps the best parts for himself.

Gervais described the show as a cross between "The Office," and his showbiz-themed comedy "Extras."

The seven-part show launches on the BBC this fall. Gervais has said if Davis isn't a success, "I'll eat Johnny Depp's hat."

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The Star Online: World Updates

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Rebels, Gaddafi forces fight for Libya coast cities

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:31 PM PDT

ZINTAN, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebels fought fierce battles in two coastal cities on either side of Tripoli in a drive to topple Muammar Gaddafi, and also claimed the Libyan leader's former No. 2 had defected.

Local residents celebrate after Libyan rebel fighters drove pro-Gaddafi forces from Gharyan, August 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Bob Strong)

Sustained blasts from rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and anti-aircraft guns rang out on Friday in the centre of Zawiyah, a city on the coastal highway 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli that the rebels entered this week, in a clash that killed at least two.

As they pushed to consolidate control of the city and its strategic oil refinery, rebels in Zawiyah's central square exchanged heavy fire with Gaddafi forces holed up inside a nearby hospital before driving them out, Reuters witnesses said.

East of the capital, opposition forces fought bloody street battles in the city of Zlitan but suffered heavy casualties, a Reuters reporter there said. A rebel spokesman said 32 rebel fighters were killed, with 150 wounded.

Rebel advances have cut off Tripoli from its main supply routes, putting Gaddafi's four-decade rule under heavy pressure.

But Gaddafi's information minister, Moussa Ibrahim, said late on Friday the government's military retained the upper hand in both Zawiyah and Zlitan and scorned what he described as 'bands of insurgents'.

In a possible psychological blow to Gaddafi's government, rebels said his former deputy Abdel Salam Jalloud had defected to rebel-held territory in the Western Mountains.

Jalloud was a member of the junta that staged a 1969 coup bringing Gaddafi to power, and was seen as the North African oil producer state's second in command before falling out of Gaddafi's favour in the 1990s.

"He is definitely here in Zintan. He is under the control of the military council here," Massoud Ali, a local rebel spokesman, told Reuters. Rebels showed Reuters a video of a person they identified as Jalloud standing among them earlier in the day.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim declined comment about Jalloud's whereabouts or his political allegiances, but said if Jalloud had left the country he hoped he would help facilitate a negotiated end to the conflict.

It was unclear how close Jalloud was to Gaddafi after the 1990s, when he reportedly was stripped of his passport and put under government surveillance following a disagreement with Gaddafi.

With rebels pushing on the ground, NATO has pressed on with its campaign from the air and its warplanes pounded targets in the capital overnight.

Gaddafi's government has blamed NATO bombings for scores of civilian deaths and said 27 people were killed in the most recent raids on Tripoli. NATO accuses Gaddafi forces of housing military assets near civilians.

MIGRANT WORKERS

In another sign the fighting is hitting closer to Gaddafi's inner circle, the brother of the spokesman who has served as the Tripoli government's public face, was reported killed in a front-line city. The government blamed NATO attack helicopters.

Libyan officials separately brought journalists to a residential district where a compound of several large buildings was blasted to pieces. Neighbours said it belonged to Abdullah al-Senussi, Gaddafi's brother-in-law and head of intelligence, though a government official said Senussi was not there at the time.

NBC News reported Gaddafi was making preparations to leave Libya with his family for possible exile in Tunisia, but that it was unclear if he would follow through. NBC said the information came from U.S. officials who cited intelligence reports.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kaim reiterated the government stance that Gaddafi would not depart Libya, at the same time saying Libya was in favour of any negotiations to end the fighting.

"But the United States and other key players have to give their blessing to these negotiations," he said.

A spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Jemini Pandya, said the operation to rescue thousands of Egyptians and other foreigners trapped in Tripoli by the latest fighting would begin within days.

"We are looking at all options available, but it will probably have to be by sea," she told a Geneva news conference.

More than 600,000 of up to 2.5 million foreigners, mostly Asian and African migrant workers, have fled Libya in six months of fighting. But thousands remained in Tripoli, which until this week was calm and a safe two-hour drive from Tunisia.

The route has been cut since the rebels entered Zawiyah, which lies on the coastal highway, six days ago. In Zawiyah, medics at another local hospital said two dead and three wounded had been taken there from the recent fighting.

On Thursday they took the neighbouring town of Sabratha, and on Friday they seized the nearby town of Surman.

Several hundred rebels and their supporters gathered on the streets of Surman, just off the highway, to celebrate the victory, flying the rebel green, red and black flag.

In New York, Human Rights Watch published a report on its website saying Libyan government forces appeared to have executed 10 protesters following an anti-government demonstration in the town of Bani Walid, southwest of Misrata, on May 28.

HRW said it had interviewed six men "with knowledge of the day's events, including three who saw government forces fire on the demonstrators".

There was no way to immediately verify the report.

(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan in Tripoli; Robert Birsel in Benghazi, Libya; Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Ulf Laessing in Garyan, Libya; Mariam Karouny in Beirut; William Maclean in London; Yvonne Bell in Zawiyah; Souhail Karam in Rabat; Tarek Amara in Tunis; Writing by Richard Valdmanis and Peter Graff; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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Gaddafi's former No. 2 defects - Libya rebels

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:59 PM PDT

ZINTAN, Libya (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi's former right-hand man, Abdel Salam Jalloud, has defected to rebel-held territory in Libya's Western Mountains, a rebel spokesman said on Friday.

Jalloud was a member of the junta that staged a 1969 coup bringing Gaddafi to power, and was seen as the North African oil producer state's second in command before falling out of Gaddafi's favor in the 1990s.

Libya's second-in-command Major Abdel-Salam Jalloud pushes Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi in his wheelchair after a meeting in Libya in this July 9, 1998 file photo. (REUTERS/Stringer/Files)

"He is definitely here in Zintan. He is under the control of the military council here," Massoud Ali, a local rebel spokesman, told Reuters. Rebels showed Reuters a video of a person they identified as Jalloud standing among them earlier in the day.

It was unclear how close Jalloud was to Gaddafi's regime after the 1990s, when he reportedly was stripped of his passport and put under government surveillance following a disagreement with Gaddafi.

Gaddafi has been hit by several high-profile defections since an uprising began in February in the country's east, but retains control of the capital Tripoli and his army is putting up fierce resistance at cities along the coastal highway.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Sudan says U.N. agencies get access to conflict area

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:59 PM PDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Six U.N. agencies will join a government-organized mission to Sudan's conflict-ridden Southern Kordofan region to assess its humanitarian needs, Sudan's U.N. envoy said on Friday.

Earlier this week a report by the U.N. human rights office called for an inquiry into reports of abuses in Southern Kordofan that it said could amount to war crimes, an allegation that Khartoum dismissed as "unfounded."

"The (Sudanese) humanitarian aid commissioner and six U.N. agencies will go to Southern Kordofan on Saturday," Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told Reuters.

He added that they would "assess the situation and see what was needed to fill the gaps" in humanitarian aid delivery to the region, which holds most of north Sudan's oil reserves.

Tensions have flared in the oil-rich state after South Sudan seceded last month, taking its oil fields with it. U.N. officials have complained of limited or no access to the area, which contains large populations that sided with South Sudan during a 20-year civil war.

Osman said the U.N. agencies going on the mission would include the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Program, the World Health Organization and the UNICEF children's fund. There will also be several foreign non-U.N. organizations taking part, he said.

OCHA spokeswoman Amanda Pitt said the mission would last four days and the participants hoped to "carry out assessments in several locations."

Osman said the fact that the mission is taking place disproved the charges of rampant human rights abuses and neglect contained in the U.N. human rights office's report.

"This defeats the allegations in the preliminary report," he said. "There are no military attacks in Southern Kordofan."

'GRAVE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION'

A Western diplomat described the Sudanese decision to allow the mission into the area as a "smokescreen."

"Sudan is not cooperating," the envoy said on condition of anonymity. "It has not allowed peacekeepers stay in its territory, forcing them to leave (Southern Kordofan)."

The United Nations said on June 22 that 73,000 people had fled Southern Kordofan after more than two weeks of fighting although some later returned to their homes.

Some activists accuse Khartoum of starting the fighting to assert its authority there, a charge the government denies.

The U.N. rights office report said abuses in the state capital Kadugli and surrounding Nuba mountains included extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of homes and mass displacement.

The U.S.-based Satellite Sentinel Project said on Wednesday that it has identified three more mass graves in Southern Kordofan in addition to three others it identified in July.

For weeks the United States and European members of the U.N. Security Council have been pressing the 15-nation body to condemn Khartoum over the situation in Southern Kordofan, but veto powers Russia and China, along with South Africa, India and Brazil oppose the idea, Western envoys said.

The divided council discussed the issue again on Friday after U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay asked its members to weigh in on it. But no action was taken, which a U.S. official made clear Washington was not happy about.

"Pillay has asked the U.N. Security Council to speak out against the grave humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and has recommended that an independent investigation be conducted into reported violations of international law," he said.

"We have made clear that we support commissioner Pillay's calls and continue to urge the other members of the council to join us in speaking out on behalf of the people of South Kordoran," the U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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Treasury Pulse

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:29 PM PDT

Global foreign exchange market

GLOBAL markets continue to recover and sentiments stabilised as the week went on. Global economies, including the US, UK and eurozone are poised to slow down on austerity measures. Risk assets will remain vulnerable to further sell-off even though more consolidations would likely be seen before Bernanke's Jackson Hole Speech on Aug 25-27.

The eurozone second-quarter GDP data showed the economy grew by a lower-than-expected rate of 0.2%. Eurozone's CPI remained at 2.5% in July, however the core CPI dropped to 1.2%. The euro, however, gained 0.5% during the week.

Much of the volatility seen in the past week eased, as investors ventured into riskier assets and higher-yielding currencies. Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings announced that it had decided to affirm the US sovereign rating at AAA (stable), citing the country's central role in the global financial system. However, the US dollar was softer across the board and at the point of writing, the US Dollar index declined by 0.43% to 74.25. Economic reports from the US were mixed and helped eased fears of a new recession. US producer prices rose by 0.2% in July, ahead of expectations for a 0.1% gain while core prices (excludes food and energy) rose by 0.4%. .

UK's unemployment unexpectedly increased to 7.9% while the Monetary Policy Committee Minutes released from the Bank of England's August meeting showed policymakers voted unanimously to keep interest rates on hold. However, the British pound found very good buying interest and gained 1.27% to 1.6487 levels.

Demand for riskier assets drove the Australian dollar higher to 1.06 levels before retreating. In the end, the currency was down 0.1% to 1.0364 levels. US dollar/yen pair remains trading in a limited range, hovering above the 76.50 price zone and limited below the 77.00 level.

Asian currencies saw a listless week amid lack of positive drivers with the Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar index retreating by 0.08% to 119.12. However, the ringgit strengthened during the week, trading at 2.9894-levels. Malaysia's economy grew 4% year-on-year (y-o-y) in the second quarter of 2011 versus a revised 4.9% in the first quarter, but was above Bloomberg's forecast for a 3.6% gain. Overall the main source of growth for the second quarter was mainly underpinned by sustained expansion in private domestic demand and intra-regional trade within the region. Our economics team expects growth momentum to rebound in the final quarter of this year led by support from implementation of the Economic Transformation Projects, bringing full-year GDP growth to 5% for 2011.

Singapore's non-oil domestic exports contracted for the first time since May by 2.8% y-o-y as a sharp 16.9% y-o-y contraction in the electronic component continued to weigh on the overall expansion. Hong Kong's economy expanded at a slower pace in the second quarter as GDP rose 5.1% y-o-y from 7.5% in the first quarter.

Although consumer prices came in slower than expected, the ringgit retains its fundamental attractiveness and Bank Negara may allow it to appreciate further to rein in inflationary inflation. As such, we expect US dollar/ringgit to trade within the range of 2.9500 to 3.0000, with the 2.96 and 2.97 range appears to be providing congestive support for US dollar/ringgit.

US Treasuries (UST) market

US Treasuries saw gains extending further as concerns over slowing US economy prompted investors to shift towards relative safe haven assets. Benchmark US Treasury yields for two-, five-, 10-years seen easing lower to reach 0.19%, 0.87% and 2.02% as of Thursday's close.

Malaysian bond market

The local bond market ended stronger during the week, with further curve flattening seen across the benchmark Malaysia Government Securities (MGS) stocks. On the macro front, all eyes were seen focusing at this week's market moving July CPI and the second-quarter GDP data.

Inflation concerns is starting to ease from a 27-month high of 3.5% in June, with the recent print of 3.4% y-o-y for the month of July. Inflation prospects could potentially ease by end-2011, with our economics team estimating full-year average CPI likely to be on the lower-end of the comfort zone of 3%-3.5%. Against a backdrop of less rate hike pressure and easing inflation prospects, we expect this to bode well for bond investments.

Benchmark MGS closed mostly firmer as at Thursday's close with yields on the five, seven, 10, and 20-year benchmarks closing 2-5 bps lower at 3.42%, 3.52%, 3.64% and 4.06%. Meanwhile, the three-year benchmark closed 2 bps up at 3.19% while the 15-year benchmark was unchanged at 3.9%. Overall, RM13.6bil worth of trades was transacted with a daily average trading volume of RM3.4bil.

In the private debt securities market, a total of RM2.8bil worth of trades was transacted with a daily average trade volume of RM706mil. The GG/AAA and AA segments contributed 54% and 34% of trades respectively with the remainder by the single-A segment.

In the GG/AAA segment, notable transactions include Cagamas 2012-13, of which yields rose 3 bps to 3.53% with RM540mil done, Syarikat Borcos Shipping 2005-16 which closed unchanged at 3.85% with RM160mil done, and Hyundai Capital bonds maturing 2011-13, which closed 2-5 bps lower at 3.66%-3.92% with RM170mil done.

Meanwhile, within the AA segment, trading activities continue to skew towards banking and power sector bonds. Banking bonds of CIMB Group 2004-16 and Public Bank 2008-17 garnered trading volume of RM65mil and RM58mil, with yields settling at 4.06% and 4% respectively.

Ringgit interest rate swap (IRS) market

The ringgit IRS yield curve continue to flatten during the week as worries on US slow growth and Europe sovereign debts problem seen weighing on IRS rates. The rates ended the week by 1~4 bps.

For enquiries, contact: fx-research@ambankgroup.com or bond-research@ambankgroup.com

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BBDO’s cooing for KFC

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:27 PM PDT

IT was a finger-lickin' good feeling for creative agency BBDO/Proximity Malaysia (BBDO) when it recently won back the KFC account, the one it had managed for over 19 years but lost about three years ago.

Naturally, BBDO group chief executive Jennifer Chan admits that being partners with the fast-food giant once again is a big deal.

"We're pleased and very excited. KFC was with BBDO even before I joined the agency," she tells StarBizWeek.

BBDO lost its RM25mil KFC account to rival agency McCann Erickson in 2008 after nearly two decades of partnership with the fast food company. KFC had opted for McCann Erickson after a review was conducted which involved agencies Ogilvy and Mather, Saatchi and Saatchi and McCann Erickson. According to reports, the decision was made by KFC's then owners, Johor Corp (Johor state government's investment arm).

KFC's creative account returned to BBDO last month when it was appointed as the agency of record, responsible for the chain's entire local creative remit, following a four-way pitch. Ogilvy & Mather, Grey Worldwide and Lowe & Partners were the agencies shortlisted for the pitch.

BBDO will handle all of the brand's communication campaigns and marketing initiatives, replacing incumbent McCann Erickson, whose contract expired at the end of July.

"BBDO has had a huge impact on KFC. Winning back the account shows that they (KFC) acknowledge our role in boosting its business."

Chan reminisces that one of BBDO's proudest moments managing the KFC account was when the fast food operator announced it had hit the RM1bil sales mark.

The partnership also saw them winning a host of accolades, both local and international, such as "Best Use of Multimedia" at Cannes Lions in 2005, in addition to awards won at Adfest, One Show and of course, the Kancils.

Among its more memorable work was working on KFC's introduction of rice to its menu so popular was the campaign that people would actually use the tagline "you never eat rice" in their daily conversations!

According to Nielsen, KFC was the 10th biggest advertiser in the country last year, spending RM70.9mil on media (excluding pay TV ad spend).

BBDO group account director Adrian Sng, who boasts almost two decades of experience in the advertising and customer relationship management industry, says that KFC "made his career."

"We won several awards with KFC and working with them has been one of my (career) milestones," he says.

Chan declined to reveal for how long the account with KFC was for, saying only that it would be a "long-term" partnership.

"It will be a long-term partnership so that KFC can meet the targets that it has set to achieve," she says.

Sng says that while BBDO has managed the KFC account before, he points out that the business environment has changed significantly over the years. "There need to be new strategies implemented to evolve and be current. KFC is ambitious about their plans going forward with new and innovative efforts in the pipeline."

Apart from shifting its creative duties, KFC is said to have also called for an all-new agency media pitch.

It was reported that four agencies were invited to the pitch, namely Mindshare, Trapper MPG, Universal McCann and Zenith Media. It is unclear when the results will be announced.

It is learnt that incumbent Carat was not invited to the pitch, a situation similar to that of McCann Erickson, which was not invited to pitch for the creative account of the fast food chain several months ago.

KFC could not be reached for comments at press time on the agency media pitch.

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Tesco giving the personal touch to customers via loyalty card

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:26 PM PDT

TESCO Malaysia is taking a step further in bringing personalised shopping to consumers by giving them a reason to smile while they shop using the Tesco Clubcard.

Essentially a loyalty card, the Clubcard is the brainchild of Dunnhumby, a UK-based retail media group which is currently a subsidiary of Tesco.

Speaking to StarBizWeek, Dunnhumby Malaysia general manager Michael Hawkins says besides gathering consumers' data using the card, Tesco can understand the buying patterns of its customers and personalise the buying experience for them.

"The average shopper spends about RM80 on a wide range of products on every visit, but to us there is no such thing as an average customer. All customers are unique in their own buying patterns," he says, adding that Tesco's most loyal customers constitute about 6% of the retail giant's local customer base and represent nearly 30% to 35% of its total sales combined.

"At Tesco we understand the needs of our customers and we're doing our bit to show our appreciation for the continued support."

According to him, other loyalty cards in the market may have a larger set of data than Tesco has, but the winning formula is the way the hypermarket utilises the set of data and build on the leverage to grow the business further.

"Through the loyalty card, we know the demographics of our customers, and we can give them offers and relevant marketing tips they would be interested in, instead of an impersonal sales approach," he says.

Hawkins says that the challenge of being a hypermarket is to personalise the shopping for everyone and treat them as if they were frequenting a mom and pop shop without the possible physical interaction with all of them.

"One loyal customer is equal to 12 newly acquired customers, and instead of going through the conventional marketing strategy of going after new customers, history and data has shown that it is far more effective to retain your existing customers first," he says.

Completely unique to Tesco Malaysia, the hypermarket sends about a million cash vouchers and product coupons to its two million strong membership base, of which 455,000 different unique combinations of coupons are used, with 55% of the customers getting a completely unique set of rewards.

"In a sense, we cater for every diverse background, socially and culturally, that Malaysia has. Promoting the loyalty factor is a unique way to lock customers in with Tesco, while attracting new customers and growing our business in tandem with the expanding customer base," he says.

In terms of maturity, Tesco Stores (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd marketing director Vivian Yap says that Tesco Malaysia is still in its adolescent stages with its tenth year presence in the country.

"We have come a long way, but in terms of expansion and growth, we still have markets we are not in yet, and we have a team of dedicated people working very hard on that, which will obviously open up more customer base for us," she says.

On top of that, she says Tesco has also invested around RM56mil in giving out cash vouchers and coupons to customers via the usage of its Clubcard, while also slashing prices and offering promotions to give consumers the benefit of a better deal.

Although Tesco Malaysia has a smaller base of stores compared to some of the other known hypermarkets, a research by Kantar Worldpanel showed that the retailer, with 43 stores countrywide, has a higher market-share than its direct competitor which runs over a hundred stores.

Talking about consumer trends, Yap says currently consumers are concerned over the escalating inflationary pressures while the household income remains at stagnant levels, resulting in a weaker purchasing power.

"People are not so loyal in the market at the moment, where they are willing to trade down to other brands, which presents an opportunity to us as well," she says.

She adds Tesco has its own branded goods under the Tesco Value and Tesco Choice, and nowadays the retailer is seeing a lot of customers willing to switch brands due to the cost-saving opportunity these brands provide.

"We are still trying to give customers more options to choose from, and now with Tesco-branded goods, consumers can buy the same quality of goods as other national leading brands, albeit at 20% cheaper," she says.

Moving forward, she says the larger Tesco group is also experimenting on various technologies like radio frequency identification, digital shopping and even commerce via mobile phones.

"These are very appealing technologies; however, their development depends on the readiness of the consumer, and if customers don't find them relevant, it'll be pointless to implement them," she says.

"For now the Tesco Clubcard will be integral to the growth of Tesco in Malaysia, and essentially it is all about helping you spend less," she says.

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The Star Online: Sports

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Vlasic to compete at worlds despite leg injury

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:56 PM PDT

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — World high jump champion Blanka Vlasic will compete at the upcoming world championships despite a leg injury.

The Croatian, who has dominated the women's high jump since earning the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has a partially torn muscle in her left leg.

"There are several reasons why I shouldn't go to the worlds," Vlasic said Friday. "But there is only one why I should: I simply could not stand watch my rivals compete without me.

"I would feel as if someone had a party, but did not invite me," Vlasic said with tears in her eyes.

The worlds start Aug. 27 in Daegu, South Korea. The women's high jump is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Vlasic won the world title in both 2007 and '09. She won indoor world titles in 2008 and '10.

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Georgetown, Bayi attempt to make-up after brawl

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:54 PM PDT

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese team that got into a nasty brawl with Georgetown University players in an exhibition game went to the Beijing airport Friday to reconcile and see off their departing rivals ahead of a rematch Sunday in Shanghai.

A brief statement from Georgetown said head coach John Thompson III and two of the team's players met with representatives of China's Bayi Rockets following "heated exchanges" in Thursday night's exhibition game.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minsiter Cui Tiankai said Bayi members went to Beijing airport to see off the Georgetown team and the sides exchanged souvenirs.

"My understanding is that it's all cleared up," Cui told reporters at a briefing on Vice President Joe Biden's ongoing visit to China. "We're pleased about this outcome."

The two teams play each other again on Sunday in Shanghai.

Chinese basketball fans slammed Bayi, which is owned by China's military, for its part in the brawl that forced the cancelation of a match intended to promote U.S.-China goodwill during Biden's visit.

Video footage showing players punching each other and throwing chairs spread swiftly on the Internet and worldwide TV news.

"The Bayi team have really lost face now," wrote a user named anoia on China's popular microblog Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. "No matter who is right and who is wrong, you have fought the visiting team as the host ... especially while their second man in charge is in this country."

It was the latest instance of on-court fighting by China, whose players have been fined tens of thousands of dollars by the world and Asian federations for scrapping with opponents.

In October, China's national basketball coach, a manager and three players were suspended for an ugly brawl with Brazil's team that left one Chinese player in a neck brace. Fights are also not uncommon at Chinese football matches.

The video clip appears to show American players falling over Chinese players as they all run for the ball, and then two members from each side slamming into each other. Seconds later, the brawl breaks out.

Chinese fans weren't impressed.

"Does the Bayi team think they are better at Chinese kungfu than basketball and that is why they are desperate to show it off," said a Sina Weibo user named JF1113.

"I just don't get it that China is fighting other people all the time. And they lose the games too," said another user named QimaDdou.

Another, nego_lu, called players in China "poorly educated."

The Georgetown Hoyas are in China on a 10-day goodwill trip that has been cited by the U.S. State Department as an example of sports diplomacy that strengthens ties between the two countries' peoples.

Su Qun, a well-known basketball commentator in China, said blame shouldn't be aimed solely at the players.

"It's not correct for players to fight. But we see fighting occasionally and it is often because of management problems in sports teams," he said. "It's important that teams have strict rules on discipline."

Several NBA players have been considering China as a destination in the event the U.S. season was canceled due to a labor dispute.

However, the Chinese Basketball Association poured cold water on those ambitions Friday, saying it would not accept contracted NBA players, and would require any free agents coming to the Chinese league to play for the full season.

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Bangladesh beats Zimbabwe by 6 wickets in 4th ODI

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:52 PM PDT

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (AP) — Tamim Iqbal hit 61 and Rubel Hossain took 4-31 Friday as Bangladesh salvaged some pride from its disappointing tour of Zimbabwe with a six-wicket win in the fourth one-day international.

Zimbabwe still has an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. The last ODI is on Sunday.

Hossain's second four-wicket haul in the series earned him the man-of-the-match award at Queens Sports Club.

He bowled with bowled with impressive control on a pitch suited for batting, removing Brendan Taylor (106), Elton Chigumbura (31), Malcolm Waller (12), and Ray Price (0).

Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan was delighted with his team's performance.

"The bowlers bowled well," Al Hasan said. "The wicket helped us with the spinners and kept them at a reasonable total.

"We felt we were not positive enough batting (in previous matches). We needed the top order to play some good shots. That's what they did today."

In pursuit, Iqbal and Imrul Kayes (28) ensured Bangladesh made a flyer, putting on 46 runs before Kayes was well caught by Hamilton Masakadza off pace bowler Chris Mpofu.

Price trapped Iqbal in front to end a commanding innings, Kyle Jarvis took a superb catch in the deep off Prosper Utseya to remove Junaid Siddique (14) before dismissing Mushfiqur Rahim on 16.

Captain Shakib Al Hasan (39 not out) and Shuvagato Hom (35 not out) took advantage of Zimbabwe's stray bowling to guide the Asian side home.

Earlier, Taylor's third ODI hundred featured seven boundaries and a six and rescued the Zimbabwe innings from 89-4 in the 22nd over.

Taylor shared a stabilising fifth-wicket stand of 94 runs with Chigumbura to briefly give Zimbabwe hope of a defendable total.

Zimbabwe, however, collapsed following the departure of Chigumbura, who was caught in the deep by Nasir Hossain off Rubel Hossain trying to take the attack to the bowlers.

Taylor was out when he mis-hit Rubel Hossain to be caught by Mahmudullah at mid off.

"It was a good wicket to bat on," Taylor said. "We kept losing wickets at crucial stages. It kept us on the backfoot.

"We expected Bangladesh to come back strongly today. We were not good enough today. Winning 3-2 does not come out as good as 4-1. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and come back with a better performance on Sunday."

Scoreboard Friday in the fourth one-day international between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh at Queens Sports Club:

Zimbabwe

Brendan Taylor c Mahmudullah b Hossain 106

Vusi Sibanda c Mushfiqur b Shafiul 18

Hamilton Masakadza c Mushfiqur b Mahmudullah 0

Tatenda Taibu run out 7

Foster Mutizwa c Mushfiqur b Shakib 9

Elton Chigumbura c Hussain b Hossain 31

Malcolm Waller hit wicket 12

Prosper Utseya b Shafiul 0

Ray Price c Mushfiqur c Hossain 0

Kyle Jarvis b Razzak 1

Chris Mpofu not out 1

Extras: (6lb, 8w) 14

TOTAL: (all out) 199

Overs: 48.2.

Fall of wickets: 1-40, 2-53, 3-69, 4-89, 5-183, 6-184, 7-196, 8-196, 9-196, 10-199.

Bowling: Shafiul Islam 10-0-47-2 (2w), Rubel Hossain 9-1-31-4 (1w), Abdur Razzak 9.2-0-31-1 (2w), Mahmudullah 9-0-36-1 (2w), Shakib Al Hasan 6-0-25-1 (1w), Shuvagoto Hom 2-0-9-0, Nasir Hossain 3-0-14-0.

Bangladesh

Tamim Iqbal lbw b Price 61

Imrul Kayes c Masakadza b Mpofu 28

Junaid Siddique c Jarvis b Utseya 14

Mushfiqur Rahim c Sibanda b Jarvis 16

Shakib Al Hasan not out 39

Shuvagato Hom not out 35

Extras: (1lb, 9w) 10

TOTAL: (for 4 wickets) 203

Overs: 36.4.

Did not bat: Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzik, Shafiul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Nasir Hossain.

Bowling: Chris Mpofu 10-0-49-1 (3w), Kyle Jarvias 6-0-44-1 (1w), Prosper Utseya 10-0-65-1 (1w), Ray Price 9-1-35-1 (3w), Malcolm Waller 1-0-5-0, Hamilton Masakadza 0.4-0-4-0.

Result: Bangladesh wins by 6 wickets.

Series: Zimbabwe leads 3-1.

Toss: Bangladesh.

Umpires: Owen Chirombe, Zimbabwe, and Kumar Dharmasena, Sri Lanka.

Third umpire: Jeremiah Matibiri, Zimbabwe. Match referee: RS Mahanama, Sri Lanka.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf


Bookfest in aid of charity

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 02:15 AM PDT

Here's a chance to gain some good karma while having fun yourself.

WE don't often get the chance to do good for others while we're doing ourselves some good, too. But Popular Bookstore's BookFest@Malaysia has been offering bookworms the chance to do just that for the last two years by raising funds for charity during the annual event.

This year's fest, which runs from Aug 27 to Sept 4 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, will launch the One Care, One Hope charity campaign. Among the campaign's beneficiaries are the Hope Education Foundation and Yayasan Sin Che's Qing Ping Le Old Folks Home.

The Hope Education Foundation is involved with helping the ones at the other end of the age scale: children. The organisation, also known as "Little Yellow Flower", was established in 2006 by four celebrity "Hope Ambassadors": Malaysian actor Lee Sinje and Hong Kong actors Gigi Leung, Valen Hsu and Charlie Young.

The four women wanted to do something for children, as they strongly believe that, along with providing love and support, children should have the opportunity to discover and nurture their natural talents. With a proper education, kids can learn to use their life skills in building the best possible future for themselves. And so the Hope Education Foundation was born (hope-ef.org/eng).

While the foundation began in Hong Kong, it spread its wings to Malaysia with the "Ice-Cream 4U" charity concert in Kuala Lumpur in 2009 that was a joint effort with Malaysian artistes. The four talented women also turned their hands to writing and produced a series of bilingual (English and Mandarin) picture books about Little Yellow Flower. Through her, they aim to encourage children to see the positive side of life. Lee will be at the BookFest at 4pm on Aug 27 (at the main stage, Hall 1) to share her book, The Rosy Bag of Little Yellow Flower, with fans and sign autographs. Proceeds from the sale of the book will support the One Care, One Hope campaign.

Also making an eagerly-awaited appearance at the event is renowned Taiwanese writer/illustrator Jimmy Liao; he'll be appearing at 7pm on Aug 31 at the main stage in Hall 1 to share his books and sign autographs. His beautifully illustrated books have been named Taiwan's best children's books as well as the most influential titles by the country's major newspapers and they have been translated into several languages.

He has created a design for a tote bag, the "Joyful Dove" (left), and, as with Lee's book, part proceeds from the sale of these lovely bags – as well as the BookFest@Malaysia tote bag– will support the One Care, One Hope campaign.

Go on, mark the dates in your calendar – it's a great chance to feed your inner bookworm as well as heart by doing some good in the world!

Star Publications (M) Bhd is the BookFest@Malaysia 2011 media partner. – Malini Dias

> BookFest@Malaysia 2011 will be held from Aug 27 to Sept 4 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from 10am-10pm daily.

Admission to the event is with purchase of the BookFest catalogue (which comes with an extra edition for the Lifestyle Pavilion this year) for RM2.50 per entry or RM10 for multiple entries over the nine days.

They are available at all Popular and Harris bookstore outlets now or at the BookFest entrance.

Entrance is free for students 18 years old and below and for senior citizens aged 60 and above. For more information, visit bookfestmalaysia.com.

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Labour of love

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 02:07 AM PDT

To paraphrase the author's moving words, 'This love, it is a thing worth perusing with all your heart.'

Fuel
Author: Jeremy Chin
Publisher: Jeremy Chin, 256 pages

THE title seemed simple, mundane, boring even: just Fuel. But when I started reading author Jeremy Chin's debut novel one cold Saturday evening, I only stopped at 3am, and then only because I had urgent matters to attend to later that morning for which I had to be alert.

Needless to say, I got back as soon as possible to devour the remaining pages, as I wanted to know what happened to the protagonist Timothy Malcolm Smith. And as I turned the last page, I was left with a maelstrom of emotions within me.

The story revolves around Timothy (aka Timmy), who has long had the dream of running the New York marathon and winning it in his first attempt. The mechanics and science of marathon running that was intertwined with the plot is ample evidence that Chin researched his book well.

Scattered thought the book are interesting nuggets on words we may not be familiar with. Among them are ankhura, which means "East meets West" in Sanskrit, and yichalal, which means "nothing is impossible" in Amharic.

Without giving away much more of the plot lest I be accused of spoiling your reading experience, suffice it to say that Timmy finds a new dream in his life and then finds himself torn, as chasing his long-held dream may mean letting go of his new dream.

I don't normally read with pen in hand, especially fiction. But within half an hour of beginning this book, I had to start over again as I was moved to underline passages of simply beautiful writing.

What caught my attention from the start is how Chin is able to put into words how most of us feel when we're in love but are unable to elucidate on that love.

The book struck a chord with me as the pages flew by. A thought occurred to me as I was halfway through the book: what I was holding was more than just a book to the author – it was a labour of love. It is a window into his heart. I feel it is impossible to write such words if you don't truly mean them. And to top it all, I felt my eyes become moist as I journeyed with Timmy towards the end of his chase.

The book continues to resonate in my consciousness despite it being almost a month since I finished it. And I keep a copy of it in my bag just because, at times, reading some of the passages I had highlighted reminds me of how our dreams can make this temporary and fragile life of ours worth living.

More importantly, the book reminds me that every moment, each day and every person in our lives is a gift. And when we choose to embrace such gifts, our lives can become perfect.

I was so moved that I found the author online and e-mailed him. Allow me to share parts of Chin's response:

"I think I cried on more than 50 occasions while writing this book, quite often in public places, at the caf├ęs I used to sit in to write. I too had once lost someone very dear to me, and it was from that experience that this line in Fuel was born: 'I would not trade this pain. Not trade it for a second of the time I got to spend with her.'

"These memories ... precious little gems they are. And they are the greatest proof that there is no force greater than that which exists between two people who are in love. This thing, it is a thing worth pursuing with all your heart."

Tell me, how could you not be tempted in the slightest to read this book after all that? If you need further convincing, you can find a few chapters of the book at Chin's website, justjezza.com. And if you are finally convinced to read it, you can find the book on sale at most major bookstores.

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Flashes of brilliance from the comics scene

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 02:02 AM PDT

Flashpoint #1-4 of 5 (DC/US$3.99)
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Andy Kubert

Resistance is futile! In less than a month, the DC Universe will be rebooted with 52 new titles flooding the shelves. While I have kept my excitement in check (by thinking of the hole in my wallet!), my fingers are also crossed that this whole restructuring exercise will not be an excuse to cater to the new "box-office generation" recruits.

Let's hope the stories will not be diluted and that the rich history of the characters retained.

After the pre-and-post Crisis (On Infinite Earths) events, I have witnessed three Justice League revamps and the Flash-mantle being passed about like a game of musical chairs. While the ride was fun and memorable, these absorbing storylines were also done with respect for history and continuity.

I hope that next month's revamps carry the same sort of effect.

As we brace ourselves (and credit cards), the first wave has already taken place in the guise of Flashpoint, DC's remodelling of the Flash Universe or to be precise Barry Allen's life. For most of us, Wally West is the Flash, at least for the last 25 years.

Getting ourselves acquainted with another person in that scarlet jumpsuit would certainly take some getting used to as evident by Bart Allen's quick demise (Flash (vol.3) #12). Theoretically, Barry being the original Silver Age Flash should have no problems reclaiming the Flash mantle, but the truth is that Wally has "accelerated" the character beyond the Speed Force.

Yes, Barry needs to speed up his learning curve. Since his reinstatement (in Flash Rebirth), Barry's been picking up the pieces of his "old life" – same old job but surrounded by new colleagues.

Unlike the Wally-days where the Flash's adventures were fully occupied – be it by rogues, Linda or the JLA – I feel that the last year of the Barry-Flash adventures have been rather two-dimensional. Despite Geoff Johns' presence, Barry has not regained the stature associated with the character. Here's where I feel that Flashpoint's motive is to rebuild Barry's heroism in the eyes of a whole new generation.

Premised on an alternate timeline caused by the Reverse Flash, Flashpoint is Barry's biggest nightmare. Trapped in a world where he is powerless and Iris is not his wife, Barry's only consolation is that his mum is alive and "spared" by the Reverse Flash.

However, the Cyborg is this timeline's top cop, Citizen (not Captain) Cold becomes Central City's role model, the Justice League does not exist, the Atlanteans and Amazons invade Europe, and Thomas Wayne becomes the Batman! Obviously such major changes do not escape the attention of the others (besides Barry), with Bart and Booster Gold aware of the Reverse Flash's actions.

Frustration is the key emotion plaguing the plot as Barry faces an uphill task in undoing the Reverse Flash's acts as well as garnering support.

Time for the usual "rise from the ashes" trick to come into play – as evident by Barry's persistence in regaining his powers.

Barry gains Thomas' trust and assistance by convincing him that in the "real" world, Bruce is alive and is Batman.

Together, they re-enact a similar experimental setting that granted Barry his powers. The first attempt left Barry almost charred. Eventually lightning does strike twice ... and with the desired results. Regaining his powers is only the beginning as Barry now has to complete a host of challenges (unite the different heroic factions, save Superman, stop the Atlanteans and Amazons) en route to the inevitable showdown with the Reverse Flash!

For added suspense, the clock is ticking fast as the Reverse Flash's changes become permanently entrenched in this new timeline.

Any Flash-Reverse Flash saga is a major attraction and the Elseworld-inspired setting here further fuels their yin yang status.

However, having followed all of Geoff's Flash runs, I find this plot identical to his debut Lightning In A Bottle (Flash (vol.2) #164) story – which had Wally trapped in a reality where the Flash was persona non grata. A case of reusing the same winning formula?

Also I would have preferred Ethan Van Sciver's art work but Andy Kubert's pencils certainly proved me wrong.

He perfectly portrays the dark and futuristic feel expected of this plot. Additionally, Kubert's remodelling of Barry's scarlet costume and Thomas' Batman duds look so good that I ordered the action figures.

With one issue to go before the reboot, things are in motion for a big bang!

The Punisher #1 (Marvel/US$3.99)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Marco Checchetto

Not all Punisher revamps are the same, as evident by this "thinking man" incarnation of Frank Castle. Unlike the past two MAX versions, Greg Rucka adopts a sinister approach towards redefining Castle.

The premise is on a wedding gatecrashing theme involving some Marines. You can expect the Punisher to avenge the deceased ... the only difference here is that Rucka injects shades of Se7en and his Gotham Central stint to make this a memorable debut. Art-wise, Marco Checchetto is definitely a name to watch out for as he delivers an outstanding Castle.

The Infinite #1 (Image/US$3.99)
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Rob Liefeld

For me, Liefeld's name will forever be etched in comic's Hall of Fame for co-creating Cable and Deadpool. And after The Infinite, my perception remains unchanged. Despite having a strong writer in Robert Kirkman, the artwork here is shoddy and I doubt this project would elevate Liefeld back to his New Mutants/X-Force glory days.

The plot revolves around a portable time machine. A Cable-esque character named Bowen goes back in time to recruit himself (!) for a battle against an evil dictator. Along the lines of John Connor Vs The Emperor, this has to be one of those KIV scripts that Kirkman has been experimenting with ... during his Walking Dead off days.

Comic shop news

THE Singapore Toys, Games & Comics Convention 2011, the biggest comic book event in this part of the world, is back.

For two days – Aug 20-21 – you can meet mainstream and Asian talents such as Harvey Tolibao (Silver Surfer) and Carlo Pagulayan (Planet Hulk) at Suntec Singapore, the sprawling self-contained, totally integrated events infrastructure venue.

Aspiring artists can also present their portfolios to Marvel's international talent scout C.B. Cebulski. For more information, visit www.singaporetgcc.com.

> Comics courtesy of Earth 638, No.31J-2, Kelana Mall, Jalan SS 6/12, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Hotline: 03-7804 8380. E-mail: earth638@yahoo.com.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation


Court wants TV3 to explain news item attacking lawyer

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:13 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: The High Court here ordered a TV3 producer to explain a news item which a lawyer in the trial of the murder of cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya and three others claimed was a personal attack on him.

Judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir made the order following an application by the lawyer, Manjeet Singh Dhillon, representing the first accused, N. Pathmanabhan.

On Thursday, the court allowed an application by Manjeet for a reporter and an editor of Utusan Malaysia to come to the court to explain an article on the same issue.

The lawyer said that the news item, which had the same content as the article by Utusan Malaysia, titled "Manjeet selalu burukkan kerajaan" (Manjeet always smears government), was from an interview by reporter Raja Syahrir Abu Bakar with Padang Serai MP N.Gobalakrishnan.

Manjeet said the news item was watched nationwide in TV3's prime-time news, Buletin Utama, at 8pm on Aug 17, including by his lawyer friends Amer Hamzah Arshad and Datuk Ng See Teong.

Akhtar said an order had been issued for Raja Syahrir and the editor of Utusan Malaysia to come to the court next week.

Manjeet drew the court's attention on the publication of the article in Utusan Malaysia which he claimed were subjudice because the trial was still ongoing. BERNAMA

More of the trial in The Star Saturday.

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EC says it's ready to meet Bersih

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:03 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: The Election Commission (EC) is prepared to meet Bersih to discuss the country's electoral process, its chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof said on Friday.

The EC has received an official letter from Bersih asking for a meeting and the commission is now looking at a suitable date, he said.

"The EC welcomes any party who wants to come and discuss and exchange views; just don't put a gun to my head," he told reporters here.

He said three issues would be discussed at the meeting but declined to elaborate.

"Let's discuss. However, don't come under the impression that all suggestions or demands will definitely be accepted," he said.

Earlier, Abdul Aziz met representatives of the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) to discuss the association's report on human rights and electoral reforms.

He said the report touched on automatic registration of electors, the use of biometrics system, postal voting issue and the campaigning period, among others.

Proham executive council member Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said Proham had suggested that the government give priority to the EC especially in terms of financial allocation and increase in the number of staff.

"The EC shoulders a huge responsibility and it needs to improve on the system. This will need a huge allocation," he said. - Bernama

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PM: Polls at any time, not tied to select committee

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 04:32 AM PDT

Published: Friday August 19, 2011 MYT 7:05:00 PM
Updated: Friday August 19, 2011 MYT 7:32:33 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The next general election can be held anytime and is not bound by the parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms to be formed in October, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He said the government, however, would strive to implement any recommendation made by the committee before the elections.

"We will try; there must be something that can be done immediately," he told a news conference after chairing the Umno supreme council meeting Friday.

Asked on the move by the opposition to wait for terms of reference before deciding on their participation in the committee, Najib said the committee was the government's sincere offer so that decisions can be made based on consensus.

More in The Star Saturday.

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Cabinet nod for panel on electoral reform
Muhyiddin: Don't be prejudiced towards special committee
All say 'aye' to plan for select committee on polls
Cabinet to discuss select committee's terms of reference today
Motion on electoral reform committee to be tabled in October
Committee made up of all parties to discuss electoral reform before polls

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies


Danny DeVito gets star on Hollywood Walk

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 01:42 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Danny DeVito has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The 66-year-old Emmy-winning actor was honored Thursday with star number 2,445 on the famous walkway.

The ceremony was held in connection with the Sept. 13 release of the DVD of the sixth season of the FX comedy "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" in which DeVito stars as the ne'er-do-well owner of a Philadelphia bar.

DeVito played the role of caustic dispatcher Louie De Palma on "Taxi" in the late '70s and early '80s.

His film credits include "Batman Returns" and "Romancing the Stone." He also directed several films, including "Throw Momma from the Train" and "Hoffa."

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Movies coming soon

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 01:13 AM PDT

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark – A girl moves into a new home with her father and his new girlfriend. There, she discovers some supernatural beings who want her to be their new "friend". Starring Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce and Bailee Madison.

Overheard 2 – Policeman Chi Keung discovers military surveillance equipment in businessman Man Seng's car. Further investigations show that Man Seng and other business tycoons are being stalked by a mysterious guy. Starring Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo and Daniel Wu.

Final Destination 5 – It's not over till ... more people die. In the latest instalment of this horror movie franchise, a group of people survive a terrible accident, thanks to one man's premonition. However, one by one the survivors are killed in other terrifying ways, prompting the remainder of the group to find a solution to escape death.

Starring Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, P.J. Byrne and David Koechner.

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Best friends forever

Posted: 18 Aug 2011 05:49 PM PDT

"MAN is born free, but everywhere he is in chains," wrote philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract.

A hyperbole? Not really.

And here's the thing: If a man, indeed, is in chains, it is fair to say that a woman cannot be better off. A new movie, Snow Flower And The Secret Fan, takes us to 19th century Hunan, China where the shackles are clearly (and literally) illustrated in the practice of foot binding.

An epic tale of female friendship, it begins when two girls Snow Flower and Lily, aged seven, are paired as laotong in a rural province.

At a time when marriage was primarily an economic and reproductive transaction, this is an important pact because it gave women an outlet for expression that existed nowhere else in their lives.

Played by Asia's rising stars Li Bingbing (Lily) and Gianna Jun (Snow Flower), the characters communicate with each other by taking turns to write between the folds of a white silk fan.

These missives are written in nu shu, an ancient, undercover language that was kept secret from men for 1,000 years. Scholars only discovered its existence in the 1980s.

Often hidden in embroidery or folds of fans, the script of the language does not resemble Chinese characters and is incomprehensible to Mandarin speakers.

In a parallel story set in hypermodern Shanghai, the laotong's descendants Nina (also played by Li) and Sophia (Jun) struggle to maintain their childhood friendship in the face of contemporary challenges.

The universal theme of female friendship – and its survival through the tribulations of life – forms the basis of the story. Apart from examining the lives of women nearly two centuries ago, the movie also offers an insight into the challenges that modern women face.

Jobs, world affairs, families and economic situations, for example, are also things that keep the modern woman bound.

Other members of the cast include Vivian Wu (The Last Emperor), Jiang Wu (Zhang Yimou's To Live) and Archie Kao (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation). Hugh Jackman makes a special appearance as a travelling New Zealand entrepreneur.

It is presented by Fox Searchlight Pictures and no exact date for the Malaysian release is available at present.

Related Story:
Enduring friendships in Snow Flower And The Secret Fan

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