Khamis, 25 Ogos 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. East Coast in Irene's path, rushes to prepare

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:59 PM PDT

NASSAU (Reuters) - U.S. Atlantic coastal residents from the barrier islands of North Carolina to the capital in Washington and the financial center of New York rushed to prepare on Thursday for an assault by powerful Hurricane Irene.

NASA handout image taken by the GOES-13 satellite shows Hurricane Irene approaching the Bahamas on August 23, 2011 at 1932 UTC (3:32 p.m. EDT). (REUTERS/NASA/NOAA GOES Project/Handout)

From the Carolinas to Cape Cod, more than 50 million people were potentially in Irene's path. States, cities, ports, industries, oil refineries and nuclear plants scrambled to activate emergency plans, while residents stocked up on food and water and worked to secure homes, vehicles and boats.

The U.S. Navy sent the ships of its Second Fleet out of port at Hampton Roads, Virginia, to ride out the expected powerful storm at sea.

Irene battered the low-lying Bahamas southeast of Florida as a major category 3 storm on Thursday and was expected to sweep northward to hit the North Carolina coast on Saturday, before raking the remaining Atlantic seaboard.

"All the major metropolitan areas along the Northeast are going to be impacted," National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read told Reuters Insider. "Being a large hurricane, tropical storm-force winds will extend far inland."

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President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in North Carolina, authorizing federal aid to support the state's storm response.

After hitting North Carolina, Irene was expected to weaken to a still-dangerous Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, still strong enough to slam dozens of Atlantic beach communities in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia this weekend before heading to New York on Monday. A Category 2 storm carries winds of 96 to 110 mph (154-177 kph).

U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate briefed Obama and other top officials on the threat from Irene, which included tropical-storm-force winds or worse in Washington.

Irene forced the postponement of Sunday's dedication ceremony for the new memorial honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall in Washington.

Amtrak canceled train service south from Washington at least through Sunday.

Coastal evacuations were under way in North Carolina and were ordered for beach resorts in Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell urged residents to seek shelter by Friday night, before the winds kick up.

"Saturday is going to be a horrendous day for travel. There will be roads and bridges closed," he said.

Hurricane watches and warnings were in effect along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to New Jersey. The governors of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut declared emergencies for Irene.

"From a flooding perspective, this could be a hundred-year event," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said.


Irene will be the first hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since Ike pounded Texas in 2008.

At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT), Irene had sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kph). It was moving north and its center was about 490 miles (785 km south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the United States' most populous city was bracing for at least tropical storm conditions and flooding starting on Sunday. Irene could hit Long Island, which extends due east from the city, as a Category 2 hurricane.

New York City hospitals and nursing homes in low-lying areas were ordered to evacuate unless they obtained permission to stay open.

"The city has already seen the power of Mother Nature once this week, and Mother Nature may not be done with us yet," Bloomberg said, referring to Tuesday's earthquake that shook the East Coast, frightening millions but causing no deaths.

He urged residents of vulnerable areas to move to safety on Friday because the New York City mass transit system, the nation's biggest with 8 million passengers a day, may have to shut down on Saturday if flooding or high winds endanger its buses, subways and commuter trains. Many New Yorkers do not have cars.

Irene was a huge storm and forecasters warned that even if the center stays offshore as it tracks up the Mid-Atlantic coast, its wide bands could lash cities like Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York with winds and flooding rain, uprooting trees and knocking out power.


Forecasters emphasized the risks for the densely populated U.S. Northeast, which has not had a direct hit from a hurricane in decades. Hurricane expert Jeff Masters of private forecaster Weather Underground wrote in his blog that Irene could inundate the Northeast coast with 10 to 15 feet (3-4.5 meters) of water, "the highest storm surge depths ever recorded."

Flooding from Irene killed at least one person in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic. The storm cut power in the Bahamian capital Nassau on Thursday and blocked roadways with fallen trees.

The Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency said there were reports that 90 percent of the homes and structures were destroyed in some settlements in the southeast Acklins and Crooked Islands.

The storm missed Florida but whipped up massive swells along its coast. Eight people were injured in the southeast city of Boynton Beach on Thursday when they went out on a jetty to gawk at the sea and were knocked down by a giant wave.

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown and Manuel Rueda in Miami, Daniel Trotta and Joan Gralla in New York; Vicki Allen, Laura MacInnis, Lisa Lambert and Deborah Charles in Washington; Writing by Jane Sutton; Editing by Philip Barbara)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

China denounces Pentagon report, defends military modernisation

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:59 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - A U.S. Pentagon report that warned China's military modernisation could destabilise the region engaged in exaggeration and "groundless suspicion," the Chinese Ministry of Defence said on Friday in Beijing's first official response to the report.

"China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition," the ministry said in comments faxed to Reuters.

A paramilitary policeman stands next to a gate at the Forbidden City, in central Beijing, August 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)

The ministry said the U.S. report, released earlier this week, "exaggerated the so-called mainland military threat to Taiwan," the self-ruled island that Beijing deems an illegitimate breakaway province.

"It is very normal for the Chinese military to develop and upgrade some weapons and armaments," said the Chinese defence ministry.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

ANALYSIS - Turkey eyes political role, deals in Libya

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:28 PM PDT

ANKARA (Reuters) - Hesitant at first to dump one-time friend Muammar Gaddafi and to back NATO operations, Turkey is taking a lead role in efforts to rebuild Libya now the Libyan leader is on the run, eyeing billion dollar deals and hoping to extend its influence in north Africa.

A youth, who intends to join the Libyan rebel forces, writes his details on a paper before handing it to a recruitment officer in Tahrir Square in Benghazi August 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi)

Muslim Turkey, a rising diplomatic and political power in the Middle East and in North Africa, had close political ties with Gaddafi and Turkish companies had projects worth more than $15 billion in the oil producing nation last year.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who in February said NATO intervention in Libya was "out of the question", once received the Gaddafi International peace prize from Gaddafi himself.

But as the revolt spread, forcing the evacuation of thousands of Turks and leaving unfinished projects behind, and as Gaddafi grew more isolated internationally, Ankara shifted its position.

It reluctantly backed NATO operations, called on Gaddafi to step down and recognised the rebels as Libya's legitimate government. Ankara has provided the rebel National Transitional Council, the new masters of much of Libya, with $300 million in cash, loans and other aid.

Speaking at a Libya Contact Group meeting of senior diplomats in Istanbul on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged the United Nations to unfreeze Libyan assets and pledged full international support for a stable, prosperous and democratic Libya.

Analysts say Turkey's approach has highlighted the challenges Ankara faces as it throws itself to the forefront of diplomacy in the Middle East and Africa and beyond while trying to look after its interests in the wake of Arab Spring revolts.

"Turkey is taking the lead in post-Gaddafi Libya to secure its extensive commercial interests and it wants to demonstrate it is an indispensable player in the Middle East and in Africa," said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert from the London-based Chatham House think- tank.

"Libya will become a theatre for competing economic interests. The U.S., France, Italy and Britain have the leg up in securing their interests for taking the lead in assisting in the removal of Gaddafi. But commercial opportunities are big enough to accommodate many countries, including Turkey."

Davutoglu was the first international dignitary to visit Benghazi on Tuesday after rebels fighting to end Gaddafi's 42-year-old rule, backed by NATO air strikes, entered Tripoli.

Aref al-Nayed, Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, was quick to praise Turkey, which is the current term president of the Libya Contact Group made up of the nations that opposed Gaddafi's campaign to crush the rebellion.

"We expect the world community to follow the wonderful support of Turkey, its leading role and effort. Turkey has done an amazing job," Nayed told reporters at the Istanbul meeting.


Helped by a foreign policy aimed at winning friends and business, Turkish firms have gone aggressively into the Middle East and Africa, particularly North Africa.

This drive, which has helped European Union candidate and long-time NATO member Turkey become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, has come as Ankara pursued a "zero problems with neighbours" policy.

In Libya, which had been part of the Ottoman Empire until it lost the province to Italy in the early 20th Century, Turkish companies had projects worth $15.3 billion.

While Ankara courts Libya's government-in-waiting, businessmen are waiting for the situation to calm before they can return and expect the National Transition Council to use unfrozen assets to honour pending payments to Turkish companies.

"Turkey will be taking an active role in the country," Riza Nur Meral, chairman of the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey told Turkish media.

"The chance that Turkish firms will return to the war-stricken country is very high."

At the same time, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said he wanted state-owned oil and gas exploration company TPAO to resume oil exploration and production work in Libya if security is established.


Turkey's policy of championing democracy and Arab Spring aspirations while befriending the region's autocratic leaders will face a further test in Syria, analysts said.

Turkey, which has forged close political and economic ties with neighbour Syria, is bitterly frustrated at President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on demonstrators demanding an end to his 11 years in power.

"Libya and Syria have underlined the soft belly of Turkey's zero problems with neighbours because zero problems with neighbours means zero problems with regimes," said Sinan Ulgen, from the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies.

"Turkey's foreign policy has become subservient to its economic interests in the region but in Syria it will also be forced to take the right side of history."

Ulgen predicted Turkey-Syria relations will eventually come to a head if Assad keeps ignoring international calls to end his crackdown. Davutoglu, who met Assad in Damascus earlier this month, said Turkey had issued its "final word".

Senior Turkish officials admit Syria -- an ally of Shi'ite Iran with a volatile ethnic and religious mix lying in a web of regional conflicts -- will be a particularly challenging case.

Unlike the United States and the European Union, Turkey has not called on Assad to step down. If Turkey sides with the West on Syria, Tehran might regard Ankara's move as treason. Turkey and Iran have also forged closer ties in recent years.

Almost all governments had abandoned Gaddafi, except Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, so cutting ties with him was relatively easy.

"Libya was one thing but Syria is another. The Iranians are not going to let Syria go that easy," a Turkish official said.

(Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Brand new season from Man Vs Wild

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 12:52 AM PDT

AFTER five seasons of being dropped off in remote places around the globe, survival expert Bear Grylls returns to television in search of new destinations and challenges, and shares survival strategies along the way.

Season Six of Man Vs Wild sees Grylls tackling the terrain and braving the elements as you've come to expect him to – pulling through the most extreme situations, from raging waters and the biting cold to mudslides and desolate deserts.

No stranger to extremes, Grylls has served with the British Special Forces, explored the Arctic, and was the youngest British climber (he was 23 then) to complete a summit and descent on Mount Everest.

In this series, the adventurer shows viewers how to survive the toughest and most forsaken environments by putting himself in the position of a stranded tourist. Using his specialist survival techniques, he attempts to navigate his way through these environments. Along the way, Grylls also encounters dangerous predators, and for food he has to make do with whatever he can catch or find – dead or alive!

The new season presents Grylls with obstacles that push him to his limits in the wilderness, as he endures some of the harshest conditions possible in places such as Arizona, Cape Wrath in Scotland, Norway and a deserted island in the South Pacific.

Also part of the series is a Global Survival Guide episode, which features never-before-seen footage from Grylls' challenges from around the planet. And as an added bonus for us, this season kicks off in our neck of the woods! Yep, the first two episodes see him coming to Borneo. He rappels into our forbidding jungles, and must somehow descend from the jungle canopy to reach solid ground. Ahead of him lies all manner of perils – he's bitten by a snake and leeches – and even the plants are out to get him! Then there's the rain and thundering rivers that threaten to wash him away (guess he's not used to our tropical thunderstorms, eh?)

In Episode Two, he is dropped off in the Malaysian archipelago of islands. Fighting dense jungle and scaling towering escarpments, Grylls struggles to find freshwater and then tries to trap a wild boar. Well, you'll just have to tune in for the thrills.

> In conjunction with Merdeka Day, two episodes of Man Vs Wild filmed in Malaysia will premiere on Sunday at 9pm (Bahasa Malaysia dubbing will be available for these episodes) on Discovery Channel (Astro Ch 551). Brand new episodes will be screened thereafter every Monday at 10pm starting Sept 5.

The seat of power

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 12:36 AM PDT

A bloody struggle for control, hundreds of characters and magnificent castles set in a fantasy land come alive in your living room thanks to Game Of Thrones.

AFTER working in the television industry for a decade in the 1980s (on the remake of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, Beauty And The Beast and a few other pilot episodes), George R.R. Martin had enough of it. Although he was successful in his own right with television, Martin found his imagination often constricted by a thing called the budget. This meant he usually ended up cutting right down to the bone all the good stuff that was in his first draft, arriving at a lean sixth revision.

Wanting to spread his literary wings, Martin returned to writing prose – a vocation he began in 1971, with short stories and novels. Without the constant worry over finances or Hollywood's rules, the author had freedom to go wherever his imagination deemed fit. He ended up creating a fantastic new world with A Song Of Ice And Fire.

The fantasy adventure saga – set in a world that mixes medieval European history with elements of Norse legends – features a large number of characters spread out unevenly in the imaginary land of Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, where the seasons last for decades. It boasts grand battles, magnificent castles, a 700ft Wall of Ice, complex narrative and ever-changing settings.

The first volume of the book – A Game Of Thrones – came out in 1996 and the series has since accumulated a big fanbase, which is waiting not-so-patiently for Martin to complete the seven-book series (book five was released just last month).

Over the years, various parties in Hollywood have expressed interest to turn A Song Of Ice And Fire into a film, but Martin always told them the same thing, that it wasn't possible. There are just too many characters and too much of a plot to fit into a two-hour film. Martin also has yet to finish the books and he has said that he has surprises planned for his upcoming efforts.

However, writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – huge fans of the books – weren't deterred. They approached Martin with the idea of bringing the books to another medium – television.

A long lunch with Martin and five years of living obssessively in his fictional world enabled Benioff and Weiss to successfully wrestle the narrative monster and produce a 10-episode first season, based on the first book, for HBO. All three share executive producer responsibilities on the show as well as writing duties (Martin wrote Episode Eight).

In a meeting with international journalists at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles earlier this year, the two producers admitted that the biggest challenge in making Game Of Thrones was the journey in getting it made.

Weiss said: "We went to HBO in March of 2006. When we pitched the idea to them it was before True Blood, when they hadn't done anything with a fantasy element."

Benioff continued: "There is this Hollywood perception that fantasy is just for 12 to 15 year old boys. It's what people think of, at least, in films and television. But to HBO's credit, they got it – they saw the human stories, they saw the mature adult stories at play here and why it would make for great television."

Game Of Thrones premiered in the United States in April this year and has received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. It has been renewed for a second season, which will, of course, be based on the second book. The programme also received 13 nods in this year's Emmy nomination list.

At the heart of Game Of Thrones is a struggle for power and an interwoven tale of feuding families in pursuit of that power. In the land Westeros, there are seven clans or houses that have been united through battles waged by House Targaryen. The outcome is, all the lands fall under one realm called the Seven Kingdoms, with one ruler sitting on an Iron Throne forged from swords of vanquished foes.

Years later, another war is waged and the throne changes hands – King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) of House Baratheon rules alongside Queen Cersei Baratheon (Lena Headey) of House Lannister. The House of Lannister also comprises the Queen's brothers – Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). The Targaryens have either been killed or live in exile.

In the first episode, reluctant warrior Lord "Ned" Eddard Stark of House Stark is asked to be the monarch's chief advisor. It's not an easy decision to make as Stark is not interested in politics. Meanwhile, two surviving Targaryens – Prince Viserys Targaryen III (Harry Lloyd) and his sister, Princess Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) – enlist a tribe of barbaric warrior horsemen led by Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) in a bid to reclaim the Iron Throne.

No doubt the series is so multi-layered that it demands one's full attention. At the same time, however, it manages the complex storytelling without either bogging down the audience even once or talking down to them. The smooth unravelling of the plot is thanks to the tight dialogue and an outstanding group of acting talents – all of whom ably convey their respective characters' emotions and thoughts.

Martin, who was involved in the casting process, recalled: "When we went into this, we had a few dream castings – Sean Bean as Ned and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. Those two were our dreams for years and to get both of them was quite a coup.

"For the rest of the parts, we didn't have a dream cast in mind, but we looked at an awful lot of talented actors and actresses and I think we've assembled an amazing group of people. Especially the younger ones – Emilia is an incredible find, Kit Harington who plays Jon Snow and the three actors who play the three Stark kids, they are just wonderful. Child actors who can really deliver on tough dramatic roles are hard to find. These three are just amazing, and they come from nowhere. I think the world is going to fall in love with them. I'm very pleased with that."

Dinklage was also singled out by fans as their No 1 choice to play Tyrion. When this information was shared with him, the Oscar-nominated actor reacted by saying with a smile: "That's a bit more pressure, isn't it?"

He then added: "That's very nice of them, very sweet. I can't see it as something negative when they really like my stuff. It's lovely."

Dinklage is the only one out of the extremely talented cast to receive an Emmy nomination in the acting category – for supporting actor in a drama series.

But casting is going to be a challenging exercise in the future seasons, as anyone who has read the book can tell you – do not get attached to any of the characters.

For Weiss and Benioff, the uncertainty of the survival of the characters was one of the reasons why they love the books so much. Weiss explained: "You are practically fearful to turn the pages, especially when you get to book three because with each page another character dies and each time it's painful. But that's what keeps you engrossed because you are so fearful for all these characters with whom you've become so in love."

That is also an advantage television has over a feature film.

"There are certainly disadvantages as features have bigger budgets and can have lavish special effects and all the rest, but the death of a beloved TV character – after spending many seasons watching that person grow – is much more affecting, for me, emotionally, than almost any movie deaths I can think of.

"The same is true with George's books and this is something we're really attracted to – that he is willing to sacrifice any of his characters. Although casting is going to be difficult, we have a wonderful casting director – Nina Gold – who is able to find all these people."

While Game Of Thrones has excelled in the talent department, fans tend to worry about what might get lost in translation between two mediums. Bean assured that the TV characters stay faithful to their portrayal in the book.

He said: "The characters come off the page so well that they are even more vivid than I think they are in the book. I suppose you can see the colour and it's a luxuriant kind of world."

Shot almost entirely on location in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland, with huge sets incorporating existing castles and medieval ruins, as well as at a second location in Malta, the series is all for keeping it real with very little CGI.

Weiss and Benioff do take creative license here and there – a character with a fairly short scene in the book ends up as a regular in the series – and the sets are not always exactly how locations are described in the books.

But 62-year-old author Martin confessed that whenever he visits the set, he comes away impressed.

"I am a very visual writer so I have a very strong visual images of whatever it is (I write)," said Martin.

"So here, it's the set designer and producer's interpretation of my words. While it's not exactly how I would've set it if I was the set designer, it's pretty good actually. It's awfully good in some cases. The last time I went to Belfast, I saw the High Hall of the Arryns – it's quite different from how it's described in the books but it's just a magnificent set. It was stunning.

"It's always a kick for a prose writer to see any set built. I imagined it and I put it down on paper and now these teams of carpenters and painters have actually built it! What a rush."

And the best part is: "I don't have to worry about the budget. Dan and Dave (Weiss and Benioff) have to worry about it, I am just telling the story."

> Two new episodes of Game Of Thrones premiere back-to-back every Sunday at 10pm from Aug 28 on HBO (Astro Ch 411) and at 11pm on HBO HD (Astro Ch 431). Repeats are on Wednesday at 10pm and 11pm, on HBO and HBO HD respectively. Also, read more on the cast in this Sunday's Star2.

A chirping good time

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 12:07 AM PDT

You can enjoy good music as well as win dining vouchers on Red FM.

IF YOU are looking for a unique dining experience, tune in to Lexie from Aug 29 onwards as she takes you to places on Red FM's Eleven 2 Three (Monday to Friday, 11am-1pm).

Lexie, the charming host of the show, will be giving out dining vouchers to the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park's Hornbill Restaurant and Cafe for the next two weeks on the segment Top of the Shops. This highly popular segment on her show not only highlights the latest trends but also some of the most enjoyable and entertaining places to visit.

Located in the serene and scenic Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens, the KL Bird Park is home to more than 3,000 birds of approximately 200 local and foreign species. It is known as the world's largest free-flight walk-in aviary.

The Hornbill Restaurant and Café is situated within the park and serves a wide selection of local and western dishes.

Dine amidst a lush tropical rainforest and you may just be joined by a feathered friend while enjoying your meal at the restaurant's open verandah.

Lexie said: "With the restaurant's architecture reminiscent of a Malay kampung house and surrounded by towering green trees as well as a breathtaking view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline, it's an extraordinary gastronomic experience.

"The Rhinoceros Hornbill may even drop by to keep you company while you tuck in to your delicious meal! It's definitely a delightful treat for the eyes and palate you would not want to miss."

While you listen out for the cue to enter the contest, send in your dedications and song requests for the upcoming holidays. Red FM would like to wish everyone a Happy Merdeka Day and Selamat Hari Raya.

You can log on to for more information on the contest. Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page ( and follow us on Twitter (@iloveredfm) for the latest updates.

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.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Oil price rises as Irene heads for the East Coast

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 05:33 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Oil rose Thursday as concerns grew about the potential impact of Hurricane Irene on U.S. oil and gas supplies.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose 14 cents to finish at $85.30 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil produced abroad, rose 47 cents to end the day at $110.62 per barrel in London.

Analyst Tom Bentz with BNP Paribas Commodity Futures in New York thinks Irene is pushing up oil because of the possible problems that coastal flooding could cause for refineries and shipping. Refineries in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia produce nearly 8 percent of the country's gasoline and diesel fuel.

Irene is forecast to affect a broad area, from North Carolina to Canada, with flooding and winds as high as 120 miles (190 kilometers) an hour. Some forecasters think Irene could be the worst hurricane to hit the Northeast in 50 years.

In other energy trading, heating oil rose 2.42 cents to finish at $2.9932 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 4.59 cents to end at $2.8017 per gallon. Natural gas was up almost a penny to finish at $3.931 per 1,000 cubic feet after the government said the nation's supplies rose last week. - AP

Latest business news from AP-Wire

AMD names new CEO from Lenovo

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 05:31 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has named an executive from PC maker Lenovo Group as its new CEO Thursday, giving him a mission to improve the struggling company's finances and turn the rise of smartphones and tablets into an opportunity rather than a threat.

Rory P. Read, who was Lenovo's chief operating officer, takes the helm of AMD from Chief Financial Officer Thomas Seifert, who had served as interim CEO since January, when Dirk Meyer was ousted. Seifert remains the company's CFO.

AMD, based in Sunnyvale, California, is Intel Corp.'s only sizeable competitor when it comes to making PC processors, with about 20 percent of the market. It's also a leading maker of graphics chips.

AMD has long struggled against Intel and has been unable to match the larger company's enormous investments in research and chip factories. Now, both companies are facing the rise of smartphones and tablets, which don't use their chips and are starting to take a bite out of PC sales.

Next year, Microsoft Corp. will launch Windows 8, which will be able to run on cellphone-style chips in addition to Intel and AMD chips.

AMD's board felt Meyer had not acted fast enough to address the change in the industry and broaden the use of the company's chips.

"There a number of very important changes taking place around our industry, and these changes create opportunities. We'd like to develop strategies that thoughtfully but aggressively take advantage of these opportunities," AMD chairman Bruce Claflin told analysts on a conference call Thursday.

The board also wants Read to improve the company's margin and restore growth in its current markets, Claflin said.

AMD is set to launch a chip for tablets next year. Intel already sells chips for tablets and similar devices, but their usage is minimal.

Read said the future of the PC market is still bright.

"The core PC market space is going to continue to expand. I believe it will grow in the next five, ten-plus years, and I think it particularly will be strong in emerging markets as those economies expand their middle classes," he said on the conference call.

AMD shares jumped Thursday morning after Read's appointment, but subsided through the day as broader markets declined. In afternoon trading, they were up 3 cents at $6.37.

Intel's shares fell 34 cents to $19.47.

Lenovo, which is based in China, is the world's third-largest maker of PCs. Read worked for 23 years at IBM, and followed the PC division to Lenovo, which bought it in 2005.

Lenovo said it had no immediate plans to name a new COO. The functions that reported to Read will now report to CEO Yang Yuanqing.

Claflin was AMD's executive chairman during the search for a new CEO. He will lose the "executive" part of the title and return to being board chairman. - AP

Latest business news from AP-Wire

Few think Bernanke speech will signal major action

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 05:30 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: Many on Wall Street hope Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will unveil a new effort Friday to boost the economy in a highly anticipated speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Economists say a major new program is unlikely. But Bernanke will likely lay out the Fed's options for lowering long-term interest rates even further.

His speech comes at a pivotal moment for the U.S. economy. Growth has slowed. Stock prices have been gyrating. Europe is struggling to contain a spreading debt crisis. And analysts have been reducing their forecasts for growth this year and next.

The situation resembles the one Bernanke faced last year. He responded at the annual economic conference in Jackson Hole by suggesting that the Fed could buy more government bonds. The goal was to reduce long-term rates, stimulate spending and lift stock prices.

The Fed began buying $600 billion in Treasurys in November and completed its purchases in June. Stock prices rose steadily throughout the bond-buying program.

One reason few expect any such dramatic step this time is that just two weeks ago, Fed policymakers said they would keep short-term rates at record lows for two more years.

"It would seem strange for Bernanke to conclude so soon that this move was not enough," Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

Inflation is higher than it was last year, though still within the Fed's target range. But the Fed prefers to consider "core" inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices. Core prices rose 1.8 percent in July from July last year.

That's twice the rate in July 2010, when the Fed was worried about deflation - a debilitating drop in prices and wages. Last month, Bernanke said the Fed would consider further steps if the threat of deflation returned.

The Fed chairman will likely outline the economy's challenges and explain why growth will probably stay weak for several years, analysts said.

After its Aug. 9 meeting, the Fed said it would keep its options open in case conditions worsened. Bernanke has previously outlined those options:

- Buying more longer-term securities. The Fed could replace its short-term Treasurys, once they mature, with longer-term securities. The idea would be to reduce longer-term rates, such as those for mortgages and auto loans. Doing so might spur more consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

- Reducing interest rates on bank reserves. The Fed could start paying banks less interest on the excess money they keep at the Fed. The Fed pays only about 0.25 percent interest now. But paying even less could encourage banks to lend more money rather than hoarding it at the Fed.

- Clarifying how long the Fed will maintain its portfolio of bonds and other securities. That portfolio amounts to about $2.9 trillion, mostly government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. Reinvesting the proceeds from maturing bonds could keep the Fed's portfolio stable and help keep down rates. And providing a rough timetable could give investors confidence about how long rates will stay low.

- Launching another round of government bond purchases. The $600 billion in Treasurys the Fed bought earlier this year was the second round of such purchases. Bernanke argued last month in testimony to Congress that the Fed's second round of purchases - dubbed quantitative easing II , or QE2 - helped keep rates down and stave off deflation.

Critics question whether those purchases helped the economy. Some argue that by injecting more dollars into the financial system, the Fed raised inflation pressures and potentially reduced consumers' purchasing power.

"If QE2 worked so well, why are we talking about QE3?" asked Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.

Consumers are trying to pay down debt, Porcelli said, and don't want to take out more loans, even at low rates. Mortgage rates are near record lows. Yet that hasn't spurred home buying.

"Growth is likely to be sluggish for a while, and there's not a whole lot the Fed can do right now," said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities. "The U.S. economy is going to have to gut it out." - AP

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Amirul riding high – thanks to dad’s drive

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:52 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: There is an adage saying that champions are not born, but are made.

From the tender age of five, Amirul Hafiq Azmi has been exposed to motorcycle racing by his father, Azmi Yaacob when he bought him his first minibike.

Every weekend, without fail, Azmi would bring Amirul to the Speedway Plus track in Subang to let his son practise on the bike.

Just a year after getting his first minibike, Amirul won his first race and was soon sponsored by Comma Motorsports to participate in the Malaysian Minibike Championship. He went on to finish third in the championship in 2008.

Full story in StarSport today.

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Nick Watney starts the race for US$10mil FedExCup prize in pole position

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:51 PM PDT

EDISON (New Jersey): Nick Watney starts the race for the US$10mil FedExCup playoffs prize from the pole position as overall points leader heading into today's opening round of The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club.

Lurking just off the pace are heavyweights, including world number one Luke Donald, number three Steve Stricker and the world's sixth–ranked Phil Mickelson among the 123–man field.

Watney, twice a winner this year on the PGA Tour, begins the four–event, season–ending series with an edge, but the 30–year–old Californian knows how quick things can change.

"Pole position is a good analogy, because you have to play well to stay there," Watney said. "It's nice to start there, but obviously a lot can happen."

Just two years ago, unheralded American Heath Slocum crept into a 125–man field as the 124th–ranked player but edged Tiger Woods on the final hole for The Barclays victory and catapulted to third in the standings.

The top 100 players in the points list qualify for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, with the leading 70 there reaching the BMW Championship. The top 30 qualify for the Tour Championship finale.

The overall points winner pockets the eight–figure bonus.

Mickelson, winner of four Majors, views the FedExCup crown as something special after calling his 2009 Tour Championship victory one of his better wins that year.

"But it wasn't enough to win the FedExCup," lamented Mickelson, who finished behind Woods in the playoffs. "It would be pretty cool to be able to do that. I have not done that yet and I would like to."

Winning The Barclays would be a great first step, but will require mastering a course the features fast, sloping greens, tree-lined fairways, heavy rough and a reachable par–four 18th that could produce high–drama at the finish.

"It will be real exciting," Watney said about the uphill hole. "A guy leading by one shot, a lot can happen. If he hits a poor shot, he can lose a tournament outright."

Mickelson, known to go for broke on the golf course, predictably raved about the finishing hole.

"It's terrific," the big left-hander said. "If I ask anybody to think of your favourite hole, it's (usually) either a par-three under 150 yards or a drivable par-four, occasionally a reachable par-five."

Last week's winner of the Wyndham Championship, Webb Simpson, said the opportunity to post an eagle at the last hole would increase the tension.

"When you're two back coming to the last hole, you're certainly not out of it," he said. – Reuters

Ruslan and Povetkin square off for the chance to fight Klitschko

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:49 PM PDT

BERLIN: Heavyweights Ruslan Chagaev (pic) and Alexander Povetkin square–off in Erfurt, Germany, tomorrow with the WBA world title up for grabs and the chance to fight undisputed champion Wladimir Klitschko.

Klitschko earned a unanimous decision over Britain's David Haye in Hamburg at the start of July to add Haye's WBA belt to his IBF and WBO crowns.

After his victory over 12 rounds, the WBA promoted him to super champion status, meaning the belt is now vacant and whoever wins at Erfurt's Messehalle will have a chance to challenge Klitschko for the Ukrainian's belts.

"Saturday is finally the moment for which I have been waiting so long, I want to fulfill my dream of winning a world title," said Russia's Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic heavyweight champion, who is unbeaten from 21 fights with 15 knockouts.

"Ruslan is a strong-willed athlete who never gives up, he has a real warrior spirit."

This is a curious bout between two boxers who have struggled with injuries in recent years.

Chagaev, 32, won the WBA heavyweight title in Stuttgart in April 2007 when he beat Russian giant Nikolai Valuev with a majority decision.

But a torn achilles tendon injury in 2008 saw him lose the belt before he lost a title fight to Klitschko in Gelsenkirchen in June 2009 after retiring in the ninth round.

"I've been waiting for a second chance to win the title and it is imperative that I use it," said Chagaev, who hails from from Uzbekistan.

Povetkin, 31, has twice lost the chance to fit Klitschko: the first time he missed out with an ankle injury, the second time he did not sign the final contract.

"It was not about money at that time, both sides could not agree on the details of the contract," the Russian said.

"But for now only the fight against Ruslan counts."

Unusually, neither fighter opted to take Wednesday's final press conference into a war of words with an air of respect between the pair.

"We will only duel on Saturday," said Chagaev, who has 17 knock-outs from 27 victories with just the one defeat. – AFP


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Jais yet to complete investigation on church issue

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:58 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) has yet to complete its probe on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) issue, its director Marzuki Hussin said.

"There are witnesses who declined to cooperate by giving their statements to be recorded by us, causing a delay in completing our investigation on this case," he said in a statement issued here Thursday.

Marzuki said Jais needed to ensure that its investigation was transparent and not influenced by any quarters, and so did not wish to hurry.

"Jais needs to consider the interests of all parties involved in the case to ensure fairness.

"It also has to consider the sensitivity of the case to the Malaysian public, so Jais has to ensure that any decision made will take into consideration religious and societal interests, and the interests of the individuals involved.

"We assure that after our investigation is completed, we will decide whether to charge, given sufficient evidence, any party for the offence committed under the law or take any other appropriate action," he said.

Earlier in the day, Jais had tabled its report before the hearing committee headed by Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, on its controversial inspection at a dinner event organised by Harapan Komuniti at DUMC.

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'Crystal ball' seed-growing kits banned

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:42 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: The supply and sale of seed-growing kits known as "crystal balls" and other similar items is prohibited from Friday.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Thursday that importers, sellers and others defying the ban could be fined RM100,000 under the Consumer Protection Act.

He said the Government decided on the ban after receiving reports from the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital of several cases of major surgery involving children aged one to five who were believed to have swallowed the "crystal balls."

The colourful seed-growing kit, also known by various other names such as Jelly Ball, Crystal Jelly, Baby Jelly, Baby Crystal and Crystal Soil, is used to facilitate the growth of a plant or as a decoration in a pot, he told reporters here.

Ismail Sabri said that seven surgeries had been performed at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital involving children who swallowed crystal balls, the latest being a 12-month-old infant who underwent an operation on Tuesday.

He said children who swallowed the seed-growing kits could experience symptoms such as vomiting, constipation, bloating of the stomach, abdominal pains, bowel obstructions and intestinal leakage.

"Looking at the crystal ball, it is easy to understand why children may think that it can be eaten. The original size of the ball is less than 0.5cm. When put in water, the jelly rubber ball can expand five to six times its original size," he said.

He added that Poland and Italy had banned the crystal balls last year. - Bernama

Family of death-row M'sian writes to S'pore presidential candidates

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:07 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The family members of Yong Vui Kong, who is on death row in Singapore for drug trafficking, have written an open letter to the candidates for the 2011 Singapore presidential election, asking them to pardon him if they are elected.

In the letter, released to the media here Thursday, Yong's family apologised for his crime but said that after embracing Buddhism in jail, the 23-year-old Sabahan has repented.

They added that Yong has vowed to dedicate the rest of his life to counselling prisoners and educating the public on the perils of drug trafficking.

"He wants to contribute to Singapore's battle against drug trafficking as his redemption," the letter said.

Yong was caught in June 2007 when he was 18 and sentenced to death in January 2009 for trafficking 47.27g of morphine into the country.

He has exhausted all legal proceedings and sent his official clemency petition to the president on July 2011. He is now awaiting the decision of the Singapore president to pardon him.

Yong's brother Vun Leong will try to deliver the letter to the candidates by hand Friday. The Singapore presidential election will be held Saturday, with four candidates contesting.


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City Watch

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:50 AM PDT


There will be a temporary water disruption today from 10pm until tomorrow 5am in the Hulu Selangor district. This is due to Syabas carrying out pipe works at the KL-Kuala Selangor Highway. Affected areas include Kampung Dato Lee Kim Sai; Taman Bersatu Rawang; Belmas Johan, Industri Indah Rawang; Industri Kri. For details, call 1-800-88-5252 atau SMS by typing PUSPEL and send to 39222 or log on to


The Dengkil (Northbound) rest and service area (RSA) at KM24.30 on the Elite Highway will be temporarily closed today from 9am until 5pm to facilitate spring cleaning works. The parking area and existing petrol station will be opened and operating as usual. Highway users are advised to use the Seremban RSA (Northbound) at KM272.2 or the overhead bridge restaurant at Sungai Buloh (Northbound) at KM258.4. For further information call PLUSLine at 1800 88 0000.


The old Paulians Association (OPA) will be organising a golf tournament on Sept 3 at the Paradise Valley Golf Resort in Seremban 3 in conjunction with its 85th reunion dinner. The OPA Golf 2011 will tee-off at 8am and be followed by the OPA annual reunion dinner the same night at the Royale Bintang Resort and Spa, Seremban. Those interested to sign up for the golf tournament or purchase tickets for the reunion dinner can contact Lee Kok Keong at 016-2857057. Tickets for the dinner are priced at RM600 per table.


THERE will be a temporary traffic diversion for motorists travelling on Shah Alam Highway (LSA) until Nov 30. The diversion is to facilitate pavement rehabilitation works. Staggered lane closure will be implemented from 10pm to 6am along the stretch of the highway. For enquiries call Kesas hotline at 03-5633 7188 or visit


Dancelogy Ballet Academy will be holding its first concert on Aug 28 at 1pm. It will be held at Sri KDU Primary School Hall. 5 Jalan Teknologi 2/1, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya. Part of the proceeds from this year's concert will be channelled to Pusat Jagaan Kanak-kanak Sayang. For more information, call 03-7728 7030 / 012- 663 8030.


Kinrara Metta Buddhist Society of Puchong is organising an Introduction to Buddhism course from Sept 9 to Oct 21 2011, every Fridays at 8.30pm. For registration or enquiry, call Julie at 016-270 2120 or Swee Hong at 012-370 6644 or visit


Christ Lutheran Church (CLC) Setapak will be having a Blood Donation drive in collaboration with the National Blood Bank on Aug 27 from 11am to 4.30pm. CLC is located at No 52, Jalan Genting Kelang, Setapak next to Courts Mammoth. For details, contact 03-40230374 website:

EVRC fail to win despite taking a 2-0 lead

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:50 AM PDT

EVEN a bright head start was not good enough for EVRC to get into a better position and move up in the standings at the penultimate week of Xtreme social badminton doubles team event league at the Sunway Xtreme Park badminton hall recently.

The EVRC side led by former national men's doubles back-up Chow Pak Chuu allowed their opponents Thunder Killer to bounce back from two points down and win 3-2.

EVRC's mixed doubles pair Tay Kok Hau-Lai Shin Noon got off to a flying start when they edged Elvin Tham-Chow Mei Kuen of Thunder Killer 21-19, 21-15.

Then, the doubles pair of Pak Chuu-Lim Chen Wet increased the lead to 2-0 when they brushed aside Chan Wai Kang-Chan Gen Wei 21-14, 21-15.

Then surprisingly, Thunder Killer Kong Chee Seng-Lee Kok Hai gave their team a glimmer of hope when they upset EVRC's Endro Saputro-Lee Kuan Yang to reduce the deficit to 1-2.

Nothing went right for Endro-Lee as they kept making mistakes and unforced errors in their 12-21, 13-21 defeat to Kong-Lee.

The win must have inspired Thunder Killer as the pair Edward Yap-Lee Chee Seng got their act together to down Khoo Kin Meng-Lee Cheong San. The latter gave a spirited display but it was not enough as they were beaten 23-21, 21-15 to level the points at 2-2.

So all the attention was now focused on the deciding fifth match between Thunder Killer's Chua Jong Onn-Pan Seng Soon and EVRC's Tan Meng Hong-Richard Yong Yew Keong.

Jong Onn-Seng Soon showed nerves of steel by defeating Meng Hong-Yew Keong 21-9, 21-16.

Having lost to Team 21 and Fastrax with identical 2-3 margin in earlier matches, Pak Chuu said it was disappointing to suffer another agonising defeat in the series.

"After an encouraging start — taking a 2-0 lead, we thought that we could walk away safely with a win and close down on the teams ahead of us by adding another couple of valuable points. Instead we slipped from 11 points to 10," he added.

Following the defeat, Pak Chuu admitted it will be an uphill task against the stronger Kawasaki side in completing their fixtures on Saturday.

"It will be tougher against Kawasaki. On paper, they have the advantage because they have a balanced team comprising experienced social players playing at a very high level — on par with average state representatives. We will need our mixed doubles pair to deliver a point and give us the boost in putting up a decent challenge in the other four men's doubles matches. We will need to reconsider our options and rely on former state players such as Eric Ten and Tay Kok Hau as well as former national back-up trainee Chen Wet to pull us through in the final tie," he said.

In the single round-robin league contest hosted over a three-month period, teams received points based on matches won and lost from each tie.

The five matches in each tie include one mixed doubles and four men's doubles.

Meanwhile, leaders Fastrax did not slow down in strengthening their grip to confirm their top spot in the standings.

Going into their upcoming final match-up against Monday Killers on Saturday, they remained undefeated as they stretched their unassailable advantage to 35 points winning 42 and dropping seven matches over 10 ties.

In their recent outing, Fastrax registered another convincing 4-0 victory over the bottom of the table side MKF.

However, it is going to be a tight finish for five other teams challenging to improve on their positions at the top half of the table.

The contenders are Kawasaki (22 points), Thunder Killer (16 points), Y Sport (11 points) while two teams — EVRC and J&J — are levelled with identical 10 points. The three other line-up completing the cast of 12 teams in the league are All Stars, Team Spartan and Forward Sports.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Fashion at your fingertips

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 02:05 AM PDT

Online enterprise Asian Atelier proves you don't have to own a store to run a successful business.

ALIN Anuar is young, confident and hyper. Calling herself a fashion innovator, the 32-year-old has managed to turn her online business into a thriving one, with customers worldwide.

Her company Asian Atelier was founded in 2000, and it all started from a kebaya. The whole concept is based, she says, on marrying "traditional elegance with avant-garde flair".

"When I first started, I sold kebayas. I had a line called Chantiq Skaly. I like to innovate, take the kebaya and do things with it. I have an IT background. My colleagues did some form of online business. I was interested in fashion, and I wanted to do something close to my roots, so I chose the kebaya. My customers were from the United States and Australia. In fact, my first American customer helped to set up my website."

Alin partnered with the American customer and started going to trade shows. She had things made in a workshop locally, and then sold in the United States.

"At trade shows, I met people who were interested and that's how it grew. I took the knowledge and applied it to my business so when I go to trade shows, I bring all the brands," she adds.

It was in 2006 that Alin started expanding beyond her own brands. An Indonesian designer specialising in officewear for young women approached her, and this was a market that was virtually non-existent then.

Alin brought the brand to be exhibited at the Singapore Fashion Week. After that, she felt more confident to explore the idea of representing more brands – all with an Asian theme, of course.

Her business now includes her own brands – Chantiq Skaly House of Kebaya, ChantiqChantiq Purse, Maharani and Alin Anuar Couture Shoe – as well as New Job and Deanade NU. Prices start from RM200.

"My business is mainly bridal but I've got other stuff, too. I'm also going to launch another brand by a Malay designer, featuring innovative baju kurung. I feel there's a market for it, so we're trying to make it more wearable."

For the kebaya, Alin has come up with examples that incorporate the design of Hollywood celebrities' outfits into the kebaya.

She actually interned with well-known Indonesian designer Anne Avantie, and learnt all about the proper structure of the kebaya and how important it was to have the correct fit and undergarments.

"I'm very meticulous when it comes to bridal wear. I never thought people would actually dare order online. I have a standard order pack. I have visuals, colour charts and I ask a lot of questions so I can understand their taste. After that, I need a picture of them so I can create a design. I will also choose the fabric and do the beadwork. In terms of fit, I look at the height, body shape and weight. After years of experience, I can tell from the measurements what style would best suit a person."

Her forte is the applique. It's lace with any kind of pattern and she embellishes them in different styles, preferring the use of semi-precious stones. She also chooses the colours. She applies these appliques of beadwork and lace to make the outfit unique.

If you're not happy with the product, you can send it back for alterations – there's a 20% discount for that.

Alin advises clients to go to a professional seamstress beforehand, to get their exact body measurements.

While Chantiq Skaly is the bridal range, the style is always kebaya. Think custom-made kebayas with embellishments, and in short or long versions. Her customers have asked for bags to go with the outfits, which has led to vintage clutches (ChantiqChantiq Purse), veils (Maharani) and shoes (Alin Anuar Couture Shoe) so the brands all complement each other.

Alin is also a certified wedding planner. In 2008, her services expanded to include wedding planning and consultancy services, so it's a one-stop centre for brides.

The multi-talented businesswoman has a showroom in Malaysia, an office in Singapore and a studio in Jakarta.

In Jakarta, boutique owners use her workshop facilities to make their clothes. Alin says she's had years to build her business, so her current focus is on maintaining it: "I want to move away from being a designer and be known as an entrepreneur."

Last year, she showcased her 10th anniversary kebaya collection at the Malaysia International Fashion Week. For someone who started at the tender age of 21, she's certainly come a long way.

Her website ( has been revamped. As for her customers, they are in the younger age range, as these tend to be the people who order online.

She handles the business with help from her sisters. Alin spends a lot of time travelling to Jakarta and Singapore.

"My family is my inspiration, I've always been the one who wants to look after everyone. My intention was to have a business that my sisters can go into it in the future."

Alin says it helps to have an understanding husband who's used to her work schedule. Apart from her business, she has set up the Anuar Anis Foundation, named after her late father. A fixed amount from whatever she makes goes to various charitable instituitions.

Believe it or not, everything she creates is sold online, and Alin is happy to keep it that way. And why not? It makes perfect business sense to expand online and reach a wider international clientele, and that's exactly what Alin has done to great success.

Homegrown label Variante pays tribute to Liz Taylor

Posted: 24 Aug 2011 07:33 PM PDT

A homegrown label pays homage to the beauty of the feminine form.

ELIZABETH Taylor does not need any introduction. When the late doyenne of the cinematic world was at her prime, she was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. She was the Cleopatra of her day (she even played that legendary character in a movie).

And it was those violet eyes of hers that stopped people in their tracks. Like many others, designer Leslie Variyan of Variante was mesmerised by Taylor's eyes as well as her alabaster skin and sensuality.

Homegrown brand Variante pays tribute to Taylor in the Diamonds Are Forever collection. Looking at the collection, one can just imagine Shirley Bassey wearing one of the pieces while warbling her famous hit of the same name.

As far as a local muse is concerned, Variyan has found one in up-and-coming recording artiste Amanda Imani. Through her, Variyan finds the inspiration to weave magic into his latest collection.

"Like Elizabeth, Amanda has a luminous quality about her and that radiance illuminates the collection," enthuses Variyan.

Variante's latest collection sees an exhilarating merge of brilliant colours, exotic patterns and ornate adornments. They come together magically on the softest of materials – chiffon and silk. It's a classic collection celebrating the life and influence of Elizabeth Taylor, and pays homage to the beauty of the feminine form.

Woman – and every curve of her form – is celebrated in Variante's exquisite pieces in a riot of colours. Main shades include rich ruby red, glimmering garland green, breathtaking blue, mystical maroon, wispy white and elegant ebony. Each languid piece evokes memories of elegant days of yore.

The clothes caress and drape the feminine form, flowing with every movement.

Maxi, one-shoulder caftans are embellished with sparkling crystals and carry intricate patterns. A bold, tiered gown is worn with a wide black belt, matching the designs on the gown and accentuating a woman's tiny waist.

A flirty, flashy blue short dress teases as the woman walks, a flash of tanned skin playing peekaboos with each stride. A swirl of metallic gold and glitters of sparkling blue – reminiscent of Cleopatra's lavish costume – is seen on a gown fit for a queen.

White flowy pants set off a draping, long turquoise blouse, reminiscent of Taylor's lovely eyes. An outfit in lime green matched beautifully with rich chocolate is edged with intricate beading.

After a long day of work and play, Variante does not forsake the regal woman even at rest. One can lounge on a chaise in a fuss-free vermillion outfit accentuated by sleek lines of black.

While you might have seen some of these designs before, there are enough variations to please the regulars and bring in new clientele. It won't be surprising to find his designs making their way into many wardrobes during the coming Raya festivities.

Priced from RM159, the Diamonds Are Forever collection is sold at the Variante store in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.


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