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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Obama keeping close watch on Hurricane Irene

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 09:30 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama kept a close eye on Hurricane Irene as it charged north along the U.S. East Coast on Saturday by visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency and receiving an evening briefing from top officials.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about Hurricane Irene during a visit to the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA Headquarters in Washington August 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Obama, who cut short his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, by a day because of the hurricane, said it would be a "tough slog" getting through the storm but praised the federal effort so far.

U.S. officials, mindful of the widely criticized slow response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, have been out in full force urging residents in the path of the hurricane to prepare and take heed of local warnings.

Obama stopped by a FEMA coordination center where federal officials were monitoring the hurricane on large screens and said: "You guys are doing a great job."

Obama was again briefed on the storm's track, its impact and response efforts during an evening conference call with senior officials including Vice President Joe Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The White House said Obama asked to be kept apprised of developments throughout the night.

The hurricane's core was expected to approach Washington in the early hours of Sunday before hurtling toward New York City. Rainfall expected to total 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) prompted a flash-flood warning for the U.S. capital.

District residents were being urged to avoid driving and use extreme caution because of pooled water and winds expected to reach 65 miles per hour (105 kph) Saturday night.

Local authorities reported trees down, including one that crushed a parked car, and power outages.

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray told ABC News he did not know when the dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, postponed because of the storm, would be rescheduled.

"We'll come back to this and it will be a great day when we do hold it," he said.


Pentagon spokesman George Little tweeted that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had approved a prepare-to-deploy order for 6,500 active-duty military to support hurricane relief efforts if required.

In the Maryland capital of Annapolis, Mayor Josh Cohen said public transportation would shut down at 9 p.m. and urged residents of the city on the Chesapeake Bay to stay off the roads. The Bay Bridge that connects to the beach communities of Maryland was closed in the evening because of high winds.

Airlines cancelled virtually all flights at Washington-area airports beginning Saturday night.

The Washington National Cathedral, which sustained damage earlier this week during an earthquake that rattled the capital, will be closed the next two Sundays.

"The engineers continue to tell us that the building is structurally sound," said Richard Weinberg, spokesman for the cathedral. "It's just a matter of the damage that was incurred in the central tower and pieces up there remain precarious, so any of the winds from the storm could cause some of the elements to fall."

Local authorities earlier in the day handed out sandbags to residents living near the rivers that run by the city.

"It's going to be a long 72 hours and obviously a lot of families are going to be affected," Obama said at FEMA, where he sat at a conference table with top federal officials and spoke with state officials in a video conference.

The president said the biggest concerns were flooding and power outages.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Alistair Bell, Writing by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Eric Beech and Todd Eastham)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Singapore PM's preferred candidate narrowly wins presidency

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 08:59 PM PDT

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan was elected president of the Southeast Asian city-state after a recount, with the slim margin seen as a blow for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who had backed him in the fight for the largely ceremonial role.

Tony Tan, who was previously executive director of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, received 35.19 percent of the 2.15 million votes cast, just slightly more than medical doctor Tan Cheng Bock who got 34.85 percent.

Tony Tan (C) smiles as he arrives to thank his supporters after winning the presidential election in Singapore early August 28, 2011. Singapore's former Deputy Prime Minister Tan was elected president of the Southeast Asian city-state after a recount, with the slim margin. (REUTERS/Tim Chong)

Investment adviser Tan Jee Say got 25.04 percent and the fourth candidate, former insurance executive Tan Kin Lian, got 4.91 percent in the election that took place on Saturday.

The returning officer in charge of the election ordered a recount because the difference in the number of votes cast for Tony Tan and Tan Cheng Bock was fewer than 2 percent of the total number of valid votes cast.

Tony Tan's share of vote was well below the 60 percent received by Lee's long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) in May parliamentary elections when the opposition made historic gains.

The PAP, which was co-founded by Lee's father Lee Kuan Yew, has ruled Singapore since the city-state became independent in 1965.

"Voters faced a difficult choice between Dr Tony Tan and Dr Tan Cheng Bock. This explains why the winning margin is so narrow," the younger Lee said in a statement.

"Nevertheless, under our first-past-the-post system, the election has produced an unambiguous winner, who has the mandate to be the next president," he added.

Tan is the most common family name in Singapore, where ethnic Chinese make up about 75 percent of the population.

Singapore's directly-elected president has historically performed mostly ceremonial duties. But the president wields veto powers that will let him delay the appointment of people to senior government positions as well as in government entities such as GIC and state investor Temasek.

Tan Cheng Bock, a former PAP parliamentarian with a track record of speaking up against unpopular policies, had said that if elected, he would use the president's powers to scrutinise government appointments more closely.


During the election campaign, Tan Cheng Bock was aided by several opposition figures as well as many PAP activists.

Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian also had links to Singapore's small but growing opposition.

The PAP did not formally endorse Tony Tan although Lee had described him as a "unifying figure" who would bring honour and credit to Singapore.

Tony Tan was also endorsed by several business groups as well as many of the government-controlled trade unions.

Singapore's presidency was last contested in 1993 due largely to the tough conditions set by the government for prospective candidates that prevented many Singaporeans from running.

Outgoing President S R Nathan, whose term ends in August, did not face any competition when he became president in 1999 and was returned unopposed to a second term six years later.

Under Singapore's constitution, candidates must have served either at least three years in a top government position, or as chairman or chief executive of a Singapore-registered firm with paid-up capital of at least S$100 million ($82 million).

Like most top posts in the Southeast Asian city-state, the president is well paid with a salary estimated at more than 4 million Singapore dollars ($3.3 million) - intended to do away with corruption, but a sore point with voters.

(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Arab League tells Syria to end bloodshed soon

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 08:59 PM PDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Arab foreign ministers told Syria on Sunday to work to end months of bloodshed "before it's too late", and decided to send Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to Damascus to push for political and economic reforms.

People protest against President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in the city of Amude August 26, 2011. (REUTERS/Handout)

But in a conciliatory message to Damascus, the ministers also said after an extraordinary meeting in Cairo that Syria's stability was crucial for the Arab World and the whole region.

The Syrian government has sent in troops and tanks to crush five months of street protests demanding President Bashar al-Assad steps down, killing at least 2,200 protesters according to the United Nations.

Syria says it is working hard to introduce reforms in the Arab country which borders Lebanon, Israel and Iraq but blames militants for the violence.

"The (Arab League) council expresses concern and worry over the dangerous developments on the Syrian arena that had caused thousands of casualties, including dead and wounded," the Arab League council said in a statement after an expected news conference was cancelled.

"It also stresses the importance of ending bloodshed and to resort to reason before it is too late," the statement said.

It was the first official Arab League meeting on Syria since the start of the uprising.

Many Arab commentators have criticised the League for its timid reaction to the violence. It spent months only voicing "concern", suggesting divisions among its members, some of whom are facing their own public protests.

The League, which groups the Arab world's 23 states, has been under pressure to speak out more openly following popular uprisings that ousted Arab heads of state in Tunisia and Egypt and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.


Hundreds of supporters of pro-democracy activists in both Syria and Yemen demonstrated outside the League's Cairo headquarters shortly before Arab ministers arrived.

The protesters called on the leaders of both countries to step down. Yemen has seen months of mass rallies against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.

"The Arab League is being pressured by Arab public opinion to make more effort in the coming period," Arab League chief Elaraby said in his opening speech.

The League's council stressed that the Syrian people were entitled to "live in security and dignity and to see its legitimate aspirations for political, economic and social reforms realised".

"The council also stresses that the stability of the Syrian Arab Republic is a main foundation for the stability of the Arab world and the region as a whole," the statement said in a message that analysts said was aimed to appease Damascus.

The current chairman of the Arab League council, Omani Foreign Minister Youssef Bin Alawi, earlier said the meeting was important for stability in Syria.

"We will negotiate to establish stability for the Syrian people," Bin Alawi said during the opening session.

Inside the meeting hall, television screens showed footage of dead victims of the crackdown in the Syrian cities of Hama and Deir al-Zor.

International condemnation of the crackdown escalated this month after activists said Assad sent the army into several cities including Hama, Deir al-Zor and Latakia.

Syrian authorities have blamed armed "terrorist groups" for the bloodshed and say 500 police and army have been killed. They have expelled most independent journalists, making it difficult to verify events on the ground.


The League, which also discussed the situation in Libya, endorsed the rebel National Transitional Council as Libya's legitimate leadership and asked the United Nations to do the same.

It also "urged the U.N. Security Council and concerned states to unfreeze the funds, properties and assets that belong to the Libyan state immediately", the statement said.

Libyan rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril and Mohammed Abdel Rahman Shalgam, the former Libyan foreign minister who defected from Muammar Gaddafi during the early days of the protests, both attended the meeting as representatives of the Libyan state.

In March, the League backed a U.N. Security Council resolution allowing NATO warplanes to patrol Libyan airspace and bomb Gaddafi's forces to protect civilians. Its approval was seen as necessary for that operation to go ahead.

At the start of the meeting, delegates cheered as the rebels' flag was raised among flags of other Arab states instead of Gaddafi's green banner.

(Reporting by Ayman Samir; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alison Williams)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Pushed to the limit

Posted: 28 Aug 2011 12:29 AM PDT

A major crisis behind the scenes of a South Korean drama highlighted the poor working conditions of actors.

SOMETIMES the drama behind the scenes can be more interesting than the drama itself. Last week, fans of South Korean drama Spy MyeongWol (currently showing on KBS World (Astro Ch 391)were glued to their computer screens for updates of the "drama within the drama". Because for the first time in South Korean entertainment history, the lead actress abandoned the show in the middle of production.

The drama, which is about a North Korean spy sent to abduct a South Korean film star, had been troubled by rumours of disputes between the producer-director Hwang In Hyuk and the lead actress Han Ye Seul. Things worsened to the point where Han demanded that Hwang be replaced. According to Korean celebrity gossip website Allkpop, Han had been demanding better working hours, but was ignored.

Trouble began when Han appeared late for work on Aug 12 and 13. When she didn't show up on Aug 14, the cast and crew began to really worry because that week's episode, which was supposed to air on Aug 15, was only halfway done. (Many Korean dramas shoot their episodes "live", just days before they air, so that they can make last minute changes to the script in order to boost ratings.)

The situation then became critical when Han, who is Korean-American, left for Los Angeles on Aug 14.

As a result, a special had to be aired in place of the new episode.

Her management company, Sidus HQ, Spy MyeongWol's production company, Lee Kim Productions, and KBS quickly held crisis meetings to discuss the next step. There was talk of replacing Han with another actress or even killing her character off. But since the drama was named after Han's character, few could see how the story could be resolved logically without her.

The parties began to play hardball. They threatened to sue Han in the realm of billions of won and released statements that criticised Han for her behaviour. Lee Kim productions, for one, said in a press statement that Han "made a decision that's unfitting for a public figure."

Perhaps it is the threat of legal action, or perhaps it was her mother – who was rumoured to have flown in from Los Angeles to talk to KBS and the producers – who managed to convince Han to return. Two days after she left South Korea, Han flew back, wearing the same clothes she wore the day she left.

This drama behind the drama has highlighted the crazy working conditions in South Korea's entertainment industry.

The live shoot system forces the actors and crew to work long hours. So much so that it is not unusual for actors to get very little or no sleep at all during the shooting period. (The cast of the drama You're Beautiful had only an hour or two of sleep a day during the drama's last few weeks.)

Stories of stars collapsing or getting into accidents because of exhaustion is common.

Hyun Bin, star of the hit romantic comedy Secret Garden, was hooked up to IV drips to "energise" himself during the drama's hectic shooting schedule. And someone who claims to be Han's hairstylist said that the reason why the actress was late for filming was because she was so sleep deprived that she couldn't wake up on time.

Fans – both inside and outside South Korea, where Korean dramas have a huge following – are divided over Han's actions. Some think that she was irresponsible and unprofessional – other actors have fulfilled their obligations despite working in the same conditions, why couldn't she? Others, however, sympathised with her and even admired her for making a stand.

Some South Korean actors, including her co-star Eric Mun, have spoken out in support of Han.

The Korean Actors Association released a statement on Aug 19: "To see a drama immediately miss an episode because the lead actress left for a couple days is a reflection of how poorly Korean TV shows are bring produced. Han Ye Seul was screaming for survival through this boycott.

"According to Korean labour laws, normal workers are allowed to work only 12 hours per week overtime, in addition to the regular eight-hour working days. Broadcasters, however, never felt guilty even when actors worked 100 hours overtime, reasoning they are not under legal protection of standard labour law."

When interviewed by the media, Han said she was sorry for her actions and that she wished she could "start all over again." However, she did not regret what she did even if her actions meant that her career was over.

"I just wanted the people in Korea to understand the poor working conditions ... I didn't want to see another victim like me, but I do think it was my fault to cause so much trouble to the entire cast and staff members," said Han.

"I realised nothing would improve unless I took the action I did, so I would like to believe I did the right thing," she added.

Han has since resumed filming, and while the public seems more sympathetic to her plight now, it is uncertain how her career will be affected when the drama wraps up.

The industry is generally unforgiving of those who dare to rock the boat in any way. In the past, stars who took legal action against the companies in the industry were often barred from the entertainment scene for a few years.

It is also doubtful that the South Korean entertainment industry will change the way things are done overnight. But if anything, Han's actions would make them less secure about the live shoot system and would prompt them to take steps to ensure that such a thing never happens again.

Elizabeth Tai hopes for a better working conditions for South Korean celebrities – they are human, too.

Quick rise

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 06:06 PM PDT

OTHER than a guest-starring role in a British TV series when she was studying at Drama Centre in London and then a small role in a TV movie after graduation, Emilia Clarke hasn't done much else professionally as a actress. But both David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – writers and executive producers of Game Of Thrones – were immediately convinced that Clarke should be the one to play the pivotal role of the exiled Princess Daenerys Targaryen in their show. What's even more incredible is they first saw her audition in a thumbnail-sized video on their laptops!

In an interview earlier this year, Benioff recalls: "There was something incredibly compelling about her and it's a really tricky role. Daenerys is one of my favourite characters in the book. She starts out as a very meek, timid girl who's damaged and ready to break down at any point. In the first book, and in the first season, she becomes the queen. So we had to find an actress who is very young who could play both the meek and the queenly, regal and powerful woman. Not that many young actresses can pull that off."

The 23-year-old showcases a cheerful personality at this interview, laughing quite freely and being amazingly frank about herself. She describes the opportunity to act in a show like Game Of Thrones as "kind of a fairy tale really".

According to her, she is one of those people who've always wanted to be an actress. "My dad works as a sound engineer in the theatre, and when I was three I went to see a musical called Show Boat. I sat in the front row quietly for two hours – sort of mesmerised by the whole thing – and just fell in love with it then. As I was growing up that's the only thing I ever said I wanted to do. Ever. So, luckily I've ended up doing it."

Her level of commitment is pretty obvious as she is in a state of undress quite a bit in the beginning of the series, as her character experiences a sexual awakening after being married off to a fierce warrior and leader of the Dathraki tribe by her brother in a bid to raise an army that would help him reclaim the Iron Throne (the throne of the Seven Kingdoms, upon which the king rules in this medieval fantasy story).

"Well, it's HBO, so it's incredibly tasteful," Clarke says of the sexy scenes. "A lot of shots are set up like a painting so it's less about the sex side of things but just what's necessary for the story ... although my dad's not watching, so we're good," she adds with a distinctive laugh.

Perhaps what is most striking about this unassuming young star is not that she is such a contrast to her character – who is deadly serious and most of the time just sad – but that she has dark hair, which renders her almost unrecognisable. "The hair was amazing; I hate my own hair now. Maybe I should just dye my hair silver now," she says, with that wonderful laugh again.

"The joy of being an actor is you can be silver-haired one day and this colour hair, the next," she says, pointing to her own brown locks. "The wig was just so beautiful. And it was a huge process to get it right, because silver is quite a difficult colour to pull off. There was a lot of tweaking involved to get it perfect."

While she's based in London, she often goes back home to Buckinghamshire – "to get fed". Since the series has taken off, those trips will most probably be less frequent. Especially since she wants her career to be filled with brilliant parts.

Clarke says: "To be given an opportunity to work with more incredible people and more opportunities to play brilliant girls, women, all of it."

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Deliciously cunning

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 06:06 PM PDT

PETER Dinklage is the only American actor in a largely British cast in HBO's Game Of Thrones. Since George R.R. Martin – the author of A Song Of Ice And Fire, the series of books the show is based on – imagined his characters to be speaking in British accents, Dinklage adapted a posh and royal-like accent for his character, Tyrion Lannister.

"I am sure I am going to be under the microscope for that. You know American ears are a little bit deaf to all the different accents in England – there are just so many – and there are different accents in the show itself," Dinklage tells journalists gathered in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, in January this year. At this meeting, Dinklage's naturally brown hair is blonde, as production for Game Of Thrones has only just just finished. (One of the features of the Lannister family is their golden hair.)

According to the actor, the trick to sporting a believable accent is in being consistent with pronunciation. This, however, doesn't mean he is one of those people who feel the need to keep it up even when not filming. "That's a bit pretentious, isn't it? Come back home with 'Hello luv!' Nah. That wouldn't go over with my guy friends in New York, they'd make a quick work of that one," he shares.

But he needn't worry about being scrutinised because his character has become one of the favourite characters with both critics and fans. The Oscar-nominated actor is the only one to receive an Emmy nomination in the acting category out of the 13 nominations Game Of Thrones has garnered.

His character, Tyrion, comes from a family of great wealth and privilege. This affords him the option that helps him out of trouble especially since he is of short stature, which is something that is not looked favourably upon by any member of his family; many others also tend to dismiss him because of this. But, as he is described in the show, what he lacks in height, he makes up for with wit and intelligence. "Physically he's not very skilled, so he uses his mind to help him out in situations. I really love the character. He likes to drink and he likes women," says Dinklage, smiling.

"Do I share any traits with him? I sure do. Too many to mention," he says. "That's probably why I was attracted to the character – not that I am attracted to myself, that sounded wrong. There was stuff – I won't say what, I won't say which – you watch the show and you can figure out which scenes I am enjoying more than others."

Born and raised in New Jersey, the 42-year-old admits to enjoying his time in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the bulk of the show was filmed. Since the show has already been picked up for Season Two, he is looking forward to going back there for however long he is needed. "In the last few years I have been working more outside the United States. It's just that the projects I have been interested in happen to shoot mainly in Britain."

This is not the first time Dinklage has entered the fantasy realm when it comes to acting choices. In the 2008 film The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian, he plays Trumpkin. Although he says he doesn't gravitate towards the fantasy section in a bookstore, he is a fan of fantasy films like Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings. And, of course, this series. "(Game Of Thrones) is not black and white. There are no heroes and villains. There are just good people who act ugly and do villainous things and vice versa. And that is what's very attractive about these characters."

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Maybank IB expanding regionally

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:25 PM PDT

MAYBANK Investment Bank (Maybank IB), which registered a 49% surge in fee-based income to RM292mil, is all geared for expansion as a regional financial powerhouse.

This follows the purchase of Kim Eng Securities which provided an enlarged platform for advisory and corporate work in the large financial markets of Hong Kong, London and New York.

"We plan to do more outside Malaysia like in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand and to some extent, in the Phillipines," says Maybank president and CEO Datuk Seri Wahid Omar.

"For example, the team at Kim Eng Philippines is working well with our corporate bankers there and that synergy has resulted in mandates being won, some of which will be executed in the current financial year," he tells StarBizWeek.

In Indonesia, Maybank IB has been supporting small medium enterprises and over time they have become credible organisations and some have been listed.

"With Kim Eng coming into the picture, we can now continue to service customers across various markets, be it loans, debt capital or equity capital markets," says Wahid.

Through its acquisition of Kim Eng, Maybank IB now has a presence in six out of 10 Asean countries.

Under their joint efforts to capture market share, Maybank IB was the joint or sole bookrunner in the three initial public offerings for Bumi Armada, Eversendai and MSM Holdings Malaysia Bhd in which Kim Eng managed the settlement of foreign tranches and also provided distribution.

Maybank IB and Kim Eng are embarking on a two-year merger plan divided into three phases that involve establishing the merger framework; conducting integration planning and execution of integration plans.

The two companies are currently in the second phase of integration planning and expect to begin execution of plans by the start of 2012.

They are also streamlining their interim operations while identifying and executing quick-wins.

Maybank has set high growth targets for its investment banking business.

"We want to be number one in the region," says Wahid, referring to a three-year road map where in 2012, the aim will be to stabilise operations, in 2013, it will be about capturing more synergy in the home markets and by 2014, it will be to work towards regional leadership position.

Come 2015, the target is to be the number one Malaysian investment bank and top five among regional investment banks.

"When it comes to equities broking, we want to be among the top three brokers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Phillipines," says Wahid.

In view of upcoming competition among existing investment banks like the successful CIMB Group, Wahid says: "We are game for it."

Kim Eng's headcount is about 2,300 and Maybank IB's is about 700. However, it is not much about the number of people.

"We have more people in the broking side compared to the investment side, especially when we embark on retail broking activities in the region.

"What is more important is to build the investment banking capability, especially in the mergers and acquisitions advisory. We are looking to strengthen the teams in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand by bringing in more talent," he says.

Wahid says all five pillars in the group's investment banking business investment banking and advisory, retail equities, institutional equities, equity and commodities solutions and asset management will cut across geographical markets and are set for expansion.

"We have big plans in these areas," he says.

Among Maybank IB's notable deals for financial year 2010/2011 include the privatisation exercises of Tanjong Public Ltd Co, Titan Chemicals Corp, MTD Capital Bhd and Berjaya Retail Bhd as well as the listing of CapitaMalls Malaysia Trust, Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering Holdings Bhd, MSM and Sunway REIT.

Maybank IB is also lead arranger and lead manager for numerous bond issues and sukuk.

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40% profit from global ops by 2015

40% profit from global ops by 2015

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:25 PM PDT

Indonesia ops picking up steam barring any rule changes

MALAYAN Banking Bhd's (Maybank) international operations from countries such as Singapore and Indonesia are expected to contribute 40% to the group's net profit by 2015.

Currently, Singapore alone contributes 14% or S$375mil to group pre-tax profit.

However, the pace of change is gathering in Indonesia, judging from the last financial results which saw PT Bank Internasional Indonesia Tbk (BII) reporting a net profit of 461 billion rupiah or RM255mil, representing 6% of group profit, for the full year of 2010.

This was a significant turnaround from the net loss of 41 billion rupiah in the previous corresponding period year ended Dec 31, 2009.

The main drivers for this turnaround was greater growth across the core businesses and improvements in all business operations, a statement from Maybank had said.

Net interest income surged 21.8% to 4.03 trillion rupiah despite a narrowing of net interest margin. Non-interest income rose 13.8% to 2.01 trillion rupiah.

Overall asset quality at BII continued to improve while subsidiary WOM Finance experienced higher provisioning that was related to its second hand motorcycle financing.

WOM has stopped financing this segment and is currently redefining its used motorcycle financing business model.

"There has been significant improvement and WOM is back in profit," says Maybank president and CEO Datuk Seri Wahid Omar.

The challenge for Maybank currently is to weather through a new potential ruling pertaining to curbs on either foreign or single shareholding in Indonesian banks.

Maybank is no stranger to the changing regulatory landscape in Indonesia which had earlier required the banking group to sell down its 97.5% stake in BII by 20%.


However, it was able to obtain some flexibility, which has now become part of the guidelines, based on the prevailing share price of BII compared with the 510 rupiah per share that it had paid.

This time around, Wahid is also confident of obtaining the same flexibility as before.

In fact, he hopes that the Indonesian authorities will bear in mind the earlier bad times when foreign investors brought in the much-needed capital to help restructure the banks in Indonesia.

"There will probably be some kind of selldown," says Pong Teng Siew, head of research at Jupiter Securities. "It may be a blanket rule that does not just apply to Maybank. Malaysia has similar rules on foreign and single shareholding."

He noted that Maybank had bought such a large stake in BII and at such an expensive price of 4.65 times price to book value. "It looks like they bought the stake and then decided on how to react on each change (in regulations in Indonesia)," says Pong.

It may end up finding that it has to place less reliance on Indonesia and diversify elsewhere, in view of new rules being imposed on banking.

"That potential new ruling can be a setback for Maybank's plans in Indonesia," said Pong. "It should look into aggressive expansion into other areas and other countries such as Thailand."

In his interview with StarBizWeek, Wahid did indicate that Maybank is targeted to have full-fledged banking licences in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar by 2015.

Wahid does not consider the impact on Maybank to be serious, should Indonesia limit its foreign shareholding to 51% and below.

"Should we be compelled to reduce our stake to below 50%, then obviously, the profit contribution will be reduced in proportion accordingly.

BII contributed RM255mil which represents only about 6% of group net profit of RM4.45bil in the last financial year.

Maybank has put in a lot of effort to turn BII around. It will continue to expand the number of bank branches from 344 branches to 450 by end of 2012.

Currently, the focus at BII is on retail, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs), commercial and corporate banking. BII's current strengths are in SME, commercial and community banking as well as garnering deposits.

"Moving forward, we want a balanced approach," says Wahid.

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

US Open prepares for Hurricane Irene

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 06:00 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): As Hurricane Irene's first showers arrived, the site of the U.S. Open was quiet and nearly empty on Saturday, a stark contrast to the customary hustle and bustle two days before the Grand Slam tennis tournament's start.

Normally, thousands of fans attend the celebrity-and-music-filled Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, but that event was cancelled on Friday because of worries about the approaching hurricane.

And while dozens of players usually would be scattered around the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, a light rain pushed them off the courts before noon.

"Sure, it's somewhat scary, you know, because we don't know how hard it's going to hit us. I've got family. We're in New York City; it's not just a regular city.

It's quite something with all the buildings," 16-time major champion Roger Federer said. "So it's unusual, but we'll follow the news closely."

Maria Sharapova, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, shrugged her shoulders when asked about the hurricane.

"Well, I'm a Florida girl, so I'm used to this stuff. I think everyone's a bit overreacting about everything, but of course you have to take precaution and all that. But, I mean, where are we going to go?" said Sharapova, who moved from Russia to the United States as a kid.

"I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy," she added with a chuckle. "That's all we can do, right?"

She and Federer spoke at pre-tournament news conferences on Saturday; top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams were originally scheduled to attend but did not. The last major of the year is scheduled to begin on Monday and finish on Sept. 11.

Each of the past three years, rain disrupted the end of the tournament, pushing the men's final to Monday and sparking discussion about whether the USTA should put a roof over a court. This year, the bad weather is hitting at the start.

Workers prepared on Saturday for the brunt of the storm by "taking away anything that was not secured to the ground," U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

That included wood benches, potted plants, banners and television equipment at the six courts from which matches are broadcast.

The entire facility was being shut before 5 p.m. on Saturday, and will be closed to the public on Sunday. After the hurricane moves out of the area, the USTA will assess whatever damage there might be.

Organisers will consider several factors before deciding whether to go ahead with play on Monday, including the condition of the entire facility, whether there is electrical power, and whether players, officials, tournament employees and spectators can reach it.

The city's transit system was shut down on Saturday and won't reopen until at least Monday.

"Based on the most recent forecasts, we're looking at winds in the 40 to 60 mph range. We know our structures are certainly capable of withstanding that. They're all structurally sound," said Daniel Zausner, managing director of the National Tennis Center.

"If the forecasts are off, and things are significantly worse than that, then we're going to be in the same position as everyone else in the area."

Australia's Metcalfe wins rainy Southwick National

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 05:54 PM PDT

SOUTHWICK, Massachusetts (AP): Australia's Brett Metcalfe raced to his first 450 Class victory Saturday in the AMA Pro Motocross series' rainy Southwick National, finishing third in the first moto and second in the second.

The Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider edged Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto, who had 2-4 moto finishes.

Suzuki's Ryan Dungey was third - finishing 1-7. Villopoto leads the season standings after 10 races, eight points ahead of Dungey.

"I'm a winner now," Metcalfe said. "This career has been a roller coaster. After everything I've been through, to finally get a win after eight years just feels good.

"The first moto was the worst I've ever rode at Southwick, but I still got third. We prepared my bike for the mud in the second moto and it rode like butter. It was perfect. I knew I had to beat Villopoto for the overall. I saw him ahead of me, dug deep, and passed him."

Honda's Justin Barcia won the second moto after finishing 36th in the first. He ended up seventh overall.

Earlier, South Africa's Tyla Rattray rode to his fourth 250 Class win of the summer, and Ashley Fiolek raced to her third Women's Motocross Championship victory.

Calcavecchia eagles 18th, shares Boeing lead

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 05:53 PM PDT

SNOQUALMIE, Washington (AP): Mark Calcavecchia eagled the par-5 18th hole for a 5-under 67 and a share of the second-round lead Saturday in the Champions Tour's Boeing Classic.

Calcavecchia, winless in 30 career starts in two seasons on the 50-and-over tour, matched Kenny Perry (68), Jeff Sluman (70) and Russ Cochran (71) at 7 under at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.

Bob Gilder (69), Chip Beck (69) and Chien Soon Lu (69) were 5 under. Defending champion Bernhard Langer was 3 under after a 73.

Fred Couples, the hometown star coming off a victory last weekend in New York in the Seniors Players Championship, shot a 69 to reach 2 under.


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Mel Gibson and ex-girlfriend reach settlement

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 09:31 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP): Actor Mel Gibson and his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Gigorieva, have reached a settlement of their bitterly fought separation.

Los Angeles Superior Court officials said in a statement late Friday that the resolution came at the end of a multi-day settlement conference.

Terms and conditions of the settlement were not announced and the court said that a hearing is set for Wednesday.

It said the civil financial agreement would be heard in open court but one of the most contentious issues, custody of the couple's small daughter, will be discussed in closed session.

The agreement appeared to conclude a legal saga which burst into headlines last year when Gigorieva, a Russian musician, reported Gibson had hit her during a fight at his Malibu home in January 2010.


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Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:14 PM PDT

Bingsop's Fables: Little Morals for Big Business

Author: Stanley Bing

Publisher: Harper Business

A middle-aged Mogul, whose hair had begun to turn rather sparse in inverse proportion to his girth, found himself pursuing two supermodels at the same time. One of them was obsessed with youth, which she was then on the point of losing. The other was obsessed with food, which she was not permitted to eat. The latter got her vicarious thrills by making sure the Mogul ingested all that she could not eat, while the former, terrified of going grey, removed every one she could find on him. Between them, he soon found himself fat, bald and alone. Using much illustrations, the author uses wit and insight in his white-collar fables passed down from generations since Greece was glorious and Rome was grand.

How to Click with People: The secret to better relationships in business and in life

Author: Rick Kirschner

Publisher: Hyperion

WITH some people, you just click. The connection is quick and easy. Communication flows. You can tell them anything and they just know what you mean. We think this connection is an instantaneous thing. Not so, says the author. These skills have to be learned and he relates how you can speak the same language as the other person you are taking to, whether emotional or intellectual. He also writes about our responses to others and highlights the obstacles that get in the way of how we connect with people.

Leadership is Dead: How influence is reviving it

Author: Jeremie Kubicek

Publisher: Howard Books

THE author is of the view that good leadership is all about relationships. In order to become trustworthy, one must first of all give trust. In order to be credible, one must not just be smart but be honest and show integrity. These qualities are important because in order to have opportunities, one must first of all pursue relationship ahead of monetary goals. In order to get, one has to first of all, give of oneself.

Nothing obvious about the common sense

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:12 PM PDT

Title: Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer – How Common Sense Fails Us

Author: Duncan J. Watts

Publisher: Crown Business

THE French philosopher and writer, Voltaire once said, "Common sense is not so common." You may not think this is such a bad thing after all once you have read Duncan J. Watts' book, Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer – How Common Sense Fails Us.

Watts is a professor of sociology at Columbia University and a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research.He provides many thought provoking insights into why the explanations we observe in life – explanations that seem obvious once we know the answer – are less useful than they seem.

For instance, how were the fortunes of the Hush Puppies shoe brand revived? Why did Facebook succeed when other social networking sites failed? Watts informs us that a few special people revived the fortunes of the Hush Puppies brand because they started buying Hush Puppies before everyone else did. These statements may be true but what they are really telling us is that what we know happened, happened, and not something else.

As these statements can only be constructed after we know the outcomes, we can never be sure how much these explanations really explain, versus simply describe. For example, when Facebook first became popular, conventional wisdom held that its success lay in its exclusivity to college students. Yet by 2009, long after Facebook had opened itself up to everyone, a report by Nielsen, the ratings company, attributed its success to its broad appeal, its "simple design" and "focus on connecting." Facebook, in other words, was successful because it had exactly the attributes of Facebook, even as the attributes themselves changed completely.

As a sociologist, Watts has been often asked by sceptics what sociology has to say about the world that an intelligent person could not have figured out on their own. It is a reasonable question, but as the sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld pointed out nearly sixty years ago, this also reveals a common misconception about social science.

Lazarsfeld was writing about The American Soldier, a then-recently published study of more than 600,000 servicemen that had been conducted by the research branch of the war department during and immediately after the Second World War. To make his point, Lazarsfeld listed six findings from the study that he claimed were representative of the report.

For example, number two was that, "Men from rural backgrounds were usually in better spirits during their army life than soldiers from city backgrounds." "Aha," I hear you say, "that makes perfect sense. Rural men in the 1940s were more accustomed to harsher living standards and more physical labour than city men, so naturally they had an easier time adjusting. Why did we need such a vast and expensive study to tell me what I could have figured out on my own?"

However, Lazarsfeld surprised his audience by revealing that all six of the "findings" were in fact the opposite of what the study actually found. It was in fact city men, not rural men, who were happier during their army life. However, had the readers been told the real answers in the first place, they could have easily reconciled them with other things they thought they already knew, "City men are more used to working in crowded conditions and in corporations, with chains of command, strict standards of clothing and social etiquette, and so on. That's obvious!"

The point Lazarsfeld was trying to make is that when every answer and its opposite answer appears equally obvious, then "something is wrong with the entire argument of "obviousness." Whilst Lazarsfeld was talking about social science, Watts argues in his book that Lazarsfeld's point is equally relevant to any activity – whether politics, philanthropy, management, marketing – that involves understanding, predicting, changing, or responding to the behaviour of people.

Watts notes that politicians trying to decide how to deal with urban poverty oftentimes already feel they have a pretty good idea why people are poor. Policy makers empowered to enact sweeping plans that will affect millions of people are no less tempted to trust their intuition about the causes of poverty than ordinary citizens reading the newspaper. Marketers planning an advertising campaign already feel that they have a decent sense of what consumers want and how to make them want more of it. Those designing new schemes to drive down healthcare costs or to improve teaching quality in public schools or to reduce smoking, or to improve energy conservation already feel they can do a reasonable job of getting the incentives right.

People generally feel that the problems are mostly within their ability to solve i.e. that "it's not rocket science." Sadly, as Watts points out, we are actually "much better at planning the flight path of an interplanetary rocket than we are at managing the economy, merging two corporations, or predicting anything that involves human behaviour." So, "why is it that rocket science seems hard, whereas problems to do with people – which are arguably much harder – seem like they ought to be a matter of common sense? In his book, Watts argues that the key to the paradox is common sense itself. He shows us many glaring examples from history, from the managing of economies to the understanding riot mentalities, which suggest that when common sense is used for purposes beyond the everyday, it can sometimes fail spectacularly.

Criticising common sense is tricky as it is universally regarded as a good thing – when was the last time you were told not to use it? Watts tells us that it is "exquisitely adapted to handling the kind of complexity that arises in everyday situations but matters that involve corporations, cultures, markets, nation states and global institutions exhibit a different kind of complexity from everyday situations. Under those complex circumstances, common sense can suffer from a number of errors that systematically mislead us."

As we learn from experience, the failings of common sense reasoning are rarely apparent to us. They tend to manifest themselves as "things we did not know at that time" but which seem obvious in hindsight. The book points out that "the paradox of common sense, therefore, is that even as it helps us to make sense of the world, it can actively undermine our ability to understand it."

As human beings, we are more willing to believe that others have misguided beliefs about the world than that our own beliefs are misguided. However, the uncomfortable reality is that what applies to "everyone else" must necessarily apply to us. Whilst we should not abandon all our deeply held beliefs, Watts shows us that we must at least be brave enough to hold them up to a spotlight and regard them with some suspicion.

However, even if we do not, the mere exercise of challenging them should at least force us to sit up and take notice of our stubbornness, which in turn should give us pause.

Watts sums up the book's purpose well, "(Sociology) means learning to question precisely your instincts about how things work, and possibly to unlearn them altogether. So, if reading this book only confirms what you already thought you knew about the world, then I apologise. As a sociologist, I will not have done my job."


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City police looking at congestion

Posted: 28 Aug 2011 08:49 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Police will be holding discussions with Kuala Lumpur City Hall's Town Planning Unit on coming up with a strategy to overcome the problem of traffic congestion in the city especially in the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (TAR) are .

Federal police Internal Security and Public Order director, Datuk Salleh Mat Rashid said the meeting was required as it was not solely the duty of the police to manage traffic.

According to him, every festive season, the Jalan TAR area would become congested as it was the focus of shoppers.

"The current traffic congestion in the area is also probably due to Ramadan bazaars set up in the area.

I would like to suggest the bazaars be located at a more suitable site for the people," he told reporters after presenting breaking of fast food packages to traffic policemen and members of the public in the area today. BERNAMA

Dr M's systematic advice to small retailers

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 07:12 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian small retailers should take a leaf from the world's large retail companies, in terms of using systematic ways to sell products, said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said one of the methods included arranging products, according to categories, such as in hypermarkets, making it easier for customers to look for what they needed.

He added that this was similar to a library where patrons knew where to look for materials based on a coding system.

"So, small retailers here in Malaysia should learn from big companies. They may set up a small outlet that uses a systematic way of selling products and grow the business from there," said Dr Mahathir in his lecture entitled, 'Realising Vision 2020: The Strategic Role and Contributions of the Retail Sector', organised by Tesco Malaysia.

He said companies should strengthen their marketing strategies to promote products, adding that packaging was an area which Malaysian producers well should look into. BERNAMA

Polls close in Singapore's presidential race

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 05:34 AM PDT

SINGAPORE: Polling stations across Singapore for the presidential race closed at 8pm.

The four candidates had turned up at the polling stations both as observers and voters earlier in the day. Outgoing president S R Nathan, who will complete his term on Aug 31, was seen at Haig Girls' School to cast his vote for his successor.

Speaking to reporters later, Nathan said: "It was not a 'tough choice' deciding on who I preferred."

Counting of votes has started to determine who will be elected among the four Tans - former deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, former member of parliament Dr Tan Cheng Bok, former chief of NTUC Income (a cooperative insurance society) Tan Kin Lian, and former senior civil servant Tan Jee Say.

There are about 2.27 million eligible voters in the city-state.

This presidential election has been dubbed "historic" as it is the first time since 1993, when Ong Teng Cheong won in a straight fight, that the county is seeing a multi-candidate presidential race. BERNAMA


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20 young talented young badminton players identified through coaching clinic

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 03:54 AM PDT

THE Tamilians Physical Cultural Association (TPCA), following the success of the junior badminton coaching clinic, will be conducting follow up programmes.

About 60 participants took part in the junior clinic, under the supervision of former national back-up coach M. Krishna, at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium in Cheras recently.

Krishna said they had identified about 20 promising juniors and they were invited to attend regular training at selected centres.

"The centres are headed by coaches who were part of the coaching programme. The coaches will be able to monitor the juniors' progress. We expect the parents to play an active role in this programme,'' said Krishna.

The other coaches involved in the programme were V. Silvaraja, P. Ramalingam, S. Yogendran, K. Asokumaran. Yeoh Kay Bin and P. Manoj.

The participants were divided into three age groups - Under-10, Under-12 and Under-14 - and started the programme with a half-hour warm up session. Then they were briefed on the grips and swings in badminton followed by a one-hour basic skills drills.

The participants were given a 30-minute insight on the footwork skills and culminated with multi shuttle skills.

The final one-hour was devoted to match play among the participants. Krishna said they were pleased with the response.

"Some came from as far as Bangi. We are confident the participants will continue training,'' he added.

Programme co-ordinator A. Karthigesu said they would be organising another coaching clinic in December.

"Our aim is to attract about 500 children for the coaching clinics within the next three years. The programme is part of TPCA's centennial celebrations in 2014. We will be promoting the coaching clinics among parents and school children in the Klang Valley,'' said Karthigesu.

Bank employee R. Kannan, who accompanied his two daughters to the clinic, praised TPCA for initiating the programme.

"My daughters enjoyed the training session. Now they have to attend training sessions regularly,'' said Kannan.

Deputy Sports Minister Datuk Razali Ibrahim's wife Datin Melissa Munshir was pleased with the TPCA's initiative. She presented certificates of attendance to the participants.

For details on the coaching clinic, contact 012-234 2637.

Lefties bowled over at Tenpin Bowling carnival

Posted: 27 Aug 2011 03:54 AM PDT

FORMER international Ben Heng won a double in the World Lefties Day Doubles Tenpin Bowling carnival at the Sunway Megalanes recently.

Ben, who is currently a coach, and his partner Heric Chong ended the competition with a combined score of 1,753 pinfalls. In second place was Alex Khoo and Kamarul Azwa with 1,705 pins while Nik Radzi and Tajul Arrifin were third on 1,610.

Both Beng and Heric, as the champions, received RM2,500 as well prizes from sponsors. Alex and Kamarul settled for RM1,500 and Nik Radzi and Tajul went home with RM1,000.

In the high game, Ben was the winner with 279 pins.

The championships was organised by SportsUnite Sports Club with support from Milo, Gatorade, Fusion Excel International and Sunway Mega Lanes in conjunction with the World Lefties Day.

The organisers had limited participation to 48 pairs but response was overwhelming and the number soared to 72 pairs.

Each participant bowled four games and the combined scores with handicaps of the pair was used to decide on the winners.


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