Khamis, 1 September 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Bollywood: The female brigade

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 05:05 AM PDT

While mostly male Bollywood actors are ruling the roost on TV, many actresses too have made forays into the medium.

Priyanka Chopra: The National award-winning actress made her debut on the small screen as the host of the third season of Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi last year. She replaced Akshay Kumar on the show.

Priyanka's enthusiasm for athleticism and her action movies like Don convinced the show's makers that she was a good fit for Fear Factor.

She rode a bike, even did a few stunts (albeit the easier ones) and tried to up the programme's glam quotient by wearing itsy bitsy clothes. But alas, the package didn't quite work and the programme garnered abysmal ratings.

Rani Mukherjee: The petite actress – star of the recent blockbuster No One Killed Jessica – judged Sony TV's Dance Premier League (DPL) along with actor Arshad Warsi and dance guru Shiamak Davar last year.

Rani added glamour and credibility to the show.

The programme went down well with the audience and commanded a decent viewership during its 16-week run.

Genelia D'Souza: The Bollywood actress – who has starred in several regional language films down south – was the host of the first and second seasons of Big Switch, a reality show which featured 10 rich children who eschewed material comforts to fulfil the dreams of slum children.

Season Two saw the concept getting tweaked with the focus getting shifted to entire families of the teenagers.

Preity Zinta: Star of a slew of successful Hindi films, Preity has now turned her attention to business after lead film roles dried up. She is the co-owner an IPL cricket team (Punjab Kings' XI) and has recently launched a production house.

In between, she hosted Guinness Records – Ab India Torega earlier this year to mixed reviews.

While Preity's effervescence was appreciated, the "records" that the contestants broke had an element of inanity to them.

Farah Khan: The choreographer-turned-director started out with Tere Mere Beach Mein, a chat show which involved a one-on-one with other Bollywood stars in 2009. She is now co-hosting Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega (an entertainment-based reality show) with music director Anu Malik which has entered its third successful season. – Neeta Lal

Related Stories:
Bollywood actors drawn to the small screen

Sweet September

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 12:36 AM PDT

You stand a chance to be rewarded when you tune in to Red FM the whole of this month.

RED FM is going to make September a month to remember for listeners with the unveiling of a special contest starting next Monday.

And like all of the station's contests, it's a contest that's designed to be fun and thrilling at the same time. You can participate in the contest on your own or get some friends to join you as there are lucrative prizes up for grabs. You could win cash or even a brand new car, just stay tuned for more details. Don't miss out on picking up clues on-air and online as they will be given out Mondays to Fridays.

If you didn't manage to grab any of those prizes being given out, there's still more in store for you to win. There's a wide assortment of giveaways ranging from dining vouchers to hotel stays and movie screening tickets. You could be a lucky winner at anytime of the day and all you have to do is listen out for the cue to enter.

You could win an exquisite dining experience from Rudy and Jeremy on the Red FM Breakfast show (Monday-Friday, 6am-10am) or an exotic getaway from Mynn and Linora on Red FM Late Night Love Songs (Monday-Friday, 10pm-1am). Pick up movie passes on Red FM's Drive With Terry (Monday-Friday, 3pm-7pm) and Red FM's Evening With Arnold (7pm-10pm). Or have Lexie reward you with a feel good session for the body and mind when you tune in to Red FM's Eleven 2 Three (Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm).

Anyone can be a winner this month and you could be the ultimate winner to drive away a new car. Log on to for terms and conditions of all the contests. 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.

Bollywood actors drawn to the small screen

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 12:09 AM PDT

Big money, brand building and a chance to connect with a diverse audience is luring Bollywood actors to television.

EARLIER this year, when popular Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit, 44, flew from Denver, Colorado in the United States – where she is now settled – to Mumbai to judge a dance reality show, Jhalak Dikhla Ja (modelled after ABC's Dancing With The Stars), she spiked the collective adrenaline of Hindi cinema buffs.

The still-stunning diva's wardrobe, her style and words of encouragement for the contestants generated enormous interest amongst the masses. The show went on to garner record ratings for Sony TV, the channel which broadcast the show. Following that, the actress was inundated with offers for movies, more TV shows and brand endorsements, some of which she accepted with her trademark dazzling smile.

"Dance is close to my heart," said Madhuri, star of the 1990s blockbuster films like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (with Salman Khan) and Dil Ho Pagal Hai (with Shah Rukh Khan), at the show's media launch. "And TV can help me reach out to my fans."

Like Madhuri, there has been an increase in Bollywood actors and actresses flocking to Indian television as celebrity hosts of popular reality shows, quiz shows and song-and-dance programmes.

In fact, Indian viewers have never had it so good. They are now waiting with bated breath for megastar Amitabh Bachchan, 67, to enliven their TV screens as the host for the fourth season of KBC or Kaun Banega Crorepati? (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) that went on air last month.

If the promos are anything to go by, the programme is likely to break all previous ratings records. Bachchan, who had earlier hosted Season One and Two of KBC, is now on board for the new season for a staggering fee of several million dollars.

Salman Khan, 45, who generated enormous interest for Bigg Boss (the Indian avatar of Big Brother) and quiz show Dus Ka Dum in 2010 and 2009, respectively as their host, is now preparing for the next season of Bigg Boss. He is likely to co-host the show with his buddy and actor Sanjay Dutt, 52, the protagonist of the cult film Munnabhai MBBS.

Meanwhile, Akshay Kumar, 43, who had started out as a waiter in a small Bangkok eatery, hosted Master Chef India, the Indian version of the successful cookery show franchise, last year.

"Television has become so big. There are so many opportunities. I started with stage and television and TV is genuinely my favourite," Akshay told the media.

If everybody is dabbling in TV, then how can Shah Rukh Khan be left out?

Despite the fact that the superstar's first TV outing – Kya Aap Panchvi Paas Se Tez Hain? (modelled on the American show Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?) – didn't exactly set the small screen afire, he was paid a stupendous fee to anchor Zor Ka Jhatka, the Indian version of reality show Wipeout last year. As trade observers point out, till as recent as a few years back, it wasn't considered kosher for Bollywood stars to appear on TV. They were the demi-Gods who ruled the silver screen and rarely stepped out of their ivory towers. But now, practically every actor worth his glycerin tears is hosting all manner of shows. "TV is testimony to the growing reach of entertainment television in India," opined Shah Rukh Khan at a media event recently.

Media analysts say that good money, the chance to build their own personal brands through visibility and the opportunity to connect with a larger fan base direct Bollywood stars to TV.

"These shows pay phenomenally well," says Mitul Pradhan, head of a media research company. "Moreover, Bollywood stars need to be in circulation more than other celebrities. What better platform than TV which gets you inside the living rooms of millions of viewers?"

With their larger share in the TV pie, the stars have completely changed the dynamics of TV viewing, budgets and software content. TV channels can't have enough of them as they scramble to stay afloat in a hugely competitive entertainment market.

An official at Imagine TV, which has produced several of these shows, says film stars attract audiences which in turn help them reconnect with their fans. Fans, meanwhile, agree that Bollywood's presence makes a world of a difference to programme content.

In other words, TV and Bollywood are a marriage made in heaven. It is a symbiotic relationship, an unbeatable combination. Interestingly, as more and more stars are getting onto the TV bandwagon, the programmes are getting more ambitious in scope and coverage.

So the talent show – Just Dance – currently being broadcast on Star Plus, which has Hrithik Roshan as its anchor, hunted for talent across the world. With mega budgets, foreign crew, expensive sets and of course the actor's Greek god looks, the show is quite the rage.

Do the TV actors feel threatened by the sudden onslaught of Bollywood giants? "Not really," says one. "There are only a handful of shows where big actors rule the roost. So there is really no reason why we should feel threatened."

Besides, TV stars concede, the presence of Bollywood on TV adds more brand value to the medium, which has a positive effect on everybody's earnings down the line. When TV shows get reputed Bollywood stars on board, most of their publicity is taken care of. Plus, stars like the Khans or Amitabh Bachchan rope in their friends on the show, which adds more power and visibility to the programme.

"A channel's income rises dramatically the moment Bollywood stars are involved in the picture," says Karanjit Singh, a Delhi-based media consultant. "Advertisement slots are sold at much higher rates. In fact the premium goes up by about 30%."

It would seem that the presence of big stars on the small screen is a win-win situation for all.

Related Stories:
Bollywood: The female brigade


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Japan's Azumi appointed finance minister

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 08:38 PM PDT

Japan's Jun Azumi (C) listens to his aid while attending the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers Meeting Plus at the National Convention Center in Hanoi October 12, 2010. (REUTERS/Kham/Files)

TOKYO (Reuters) - Jun Azumi, a former parliamentary affairs chief in Japan's ruling Democratic Party, was appointed as the country's new finance minister, the chief government spokesman said on Friday.

Azumi will take charge of Japan's currency and fiscal policies at a time when the world's third-biggest economy grapples with sharp yen appreciation and a public debt twice the size of its $5 trillion economy.

(Reporting by Rie Ishiguro; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Rover probes role water may have played on Mars

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:06 PM PDT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is uncovering new details about the role water may have played on what is now a cold, dry planet, scientists said on Thursday.

Opportunity is one of two small rovers that landed on opposite sides of Mars in January 2004 for what were expected to be 90-day studies to look for signs of the past presence of water on the planet. Water is believed to be a key ingredient for life.

Sister probe Spirit succumbed to the harsh Martian environment last year, leaving Opportunity to go solo until the U.S. space agency's next rover, Curiosity, arrives in August 2012.

Opportunity originally touched down near the equator in an area called Meridiani Planum and almost immediately discovered evidence the plain was once covered by shallow, salty and highly acidic water. It later spent two years studying exposed bedrock and other features in a small crater named Victoria.

At a new destination, a 14-mile- (22-km) wide crater named Endeavour, Opportunity has discovered a different type of terrain with a chemical makeup unlike anything previously encountered.

"We may soon be able to study clay minerals and rock types that formed in low-acid, wet conditions, which may tell us more about a potentially habitable environment," Dave Lavery, who oversees the Mars Exploration Rovers program at NASA headquarters in Washington, told reporters during a conference call.

The first rock probed by Opportunity at Endeavour Crater shows very high levels of zinc, which on Earth is commonly found in rocks that have been exposed to hot water, such as thermal springs.

"This rock doesn't look like anything else we've ever seen before," said Cornell University planetary scientist Steve Squyres, the lead rover scientist. "We are thinking very hard over what this means."

The rock is basically basalt, a common volcanic rock, which was cemented together from fragments of other rocks shattered by an impact, for example.

"We may be dealing with a situation where water has percolated or flowed -- somehow moved through these rocks, maybe as vapour, maybe as liquid, don't know yet -- but has enhanced the zinc concentration in the rock to levels far in excess of anything that we have seen on Mars before," Squyres said.

Scientists plan to look for other zinc-rich rocks to see if the concentrations are the same, as well as probe for other minerals likewise tied to water.

Opportunity is on the hunt for bedrock, in particular, which is rock that has not been moved by impacts or other processes.

"We've got some strange stuff going on, but we're not ready to draw any firm conclusions," Squyres said.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Azumi to be named Japan finance minister - media

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:06 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Jun Azumi, a former parliamentary affairs chief for the ruling Democratic Party, will become Japan's new finance minister, Fuji TV reported, after new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's first choice for the job reportedly turned it down.

Azumi will take charge of Japan's currency and fiscal policies at a time when the world's third-biggest economy grapples with the yen's sharp appreciation and a public debt twice the size of its $5 trillion economy.

Jun Azumi speaks to journalists at the Democratic Party of Japan's election headquarters in Tokyo July 11, 2010. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files)

Katsuya Okada, a fiscal hawk who held the party's No.2 post, turned down Noda's request to take over the crucial financial portfolio, public broadcaster NHK reported earlier.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

KLCI up in early trade

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:29 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The FBM KLCI opened higher in Friday's early trade with the index climbing 33.87 points to 1,481.14 points at 9.01am, with heavyweights lifting the market barometer up.

Investors were seen nibbling on selected blue chip stocks after a three-day Hari Raya celebrations hiatus.

Among the gainers were Malayan Banking Bhd, which rose 0.23% to RM8.95, Sime Darby Bhd gained 0.21% to RM9, and IOI Corp Bhd perked 0.18% to RM4.69.

Regional bourses were mostly down. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 0.82% to 8,986.31.

Shanghai's A index was flat at 2,555.93 while Taiwan's Taiex Index was up 0.09% to 7,764.40.

Seoul's Kospi Index dipped 0.02% to 1,880.40, and Singapore's Straits Times Index shed 0.09% to 2,864.64.

Nymex crude oil lost two cents to US$88.91 per barrel. Spot gold climbed US$1.78 to US$1,827.93 per ounce. The ringgit was quoted at 2.968 to the US dollar.

Netflix stock falls as talks on Starz deal unravel

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 05:49 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO: Netflix's negotiations to keep a key piece of its Internet video library have collapsed, dealing a major blow to the largest U.S. video subscription service as it raises the prices for most of its 25 million customers. The setback triggered a nearly 9 percent drop in Netflix Inc.'s stock price.

Starz Entertainment delivered the bad news Thursday in a terse statement announcing that it won't renew a contract that allows Netflix to show a lineup of recently released movies and TV shows over high-speed Internet connections.

That means Starz content will be removed from Netflix's streaming service starting in March. Starz' library includes movies from Walt Disney Co.'s assorted studios and, until recently, Sony Corp.

The talks fell apart after the two sides disagreed over the value of the Starz content and how it should be sold to Netflix subscribers, according to people familiar with the negotiations. The people asked not to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

The content from Starz' cable TV channel played an instrumental role in increasing usage of Netflix's Internet service and helped Netflix add nearly 17 million subscribers since the deal was signed in October 2008.

That growth probably wouldn't have happened without the boost that the Starz deal gave to Netflix streaming, said Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible.

"What created (Netflix's success in streaming) is frankly, initially getting Starz, getting that content, which got you more subscribers, which allowed you to buy more content," Wible said. "The virtuous cycle that has made Netflix what it is could work against it. If you lose content, you lose subscribers; ... it could be a downward spiral from here."

Netflix had been expected to work out a new contract with Starz, although at a much higher price than the estimated $30 million a year that it had been paying under the current agreement. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged earlier this year that the company might have to pay as much as $250 million a year to retain the Starz rights when the current contract expires in February.

But those hopes were dashed, if not blown up completely, with Thursday's bombshell dropped by Starz CEO Chris Albrecht.

The timing of the announcement was seen a way to kick Netflix in the shins at a particularly vulnerable time. It came on the first day of a new Netflix pricing system that will hit U.S. subscribers with price increase of as much as 60 percent if they want to continue to get DVD rentals through the mail along with unlimited streaming of Internet video. The new pricing system has incensed a large group of Netflix subscribers who have threatened to cancel their accounts, a backlash that could intensify if it looks like Netflix's streaming library is becoming less attractive.

Albrecht said Starz had decided against a renewal "to protect the premium nature of our brand by preserving the appropriate pricing and packaging of our exclusive and highly valuable content."

The contract renewal talks broke down when Netflix refused to meet demands that could have driven up the annual licensing rights to $300 million or more, according to one person familiar with the negotiations.

A major sticking point arose when Starz insisted its content be corralled on a higher-price tier, another person said. Instead of making their content available to any Netflix subscriber paying just $8 per month, Starz executives wanted viewership limited to people paying at least $16 per month for a package that bundles DVD rentals with Internet video.

That stipulation was seen as a way to preserve Starz' relationship with cable and satellite TV distributors, who include Starz in channel packages that cost far more than the $8 monthly fee for Netflix streaming. Albrecht said Starz, part of Liberty Media Corp., is in an "excellent position" to make more money from other sources besides Netflix.

Netflix tried to downplay the possible loss of the Starz relationship. The company, which is based in Los Gatos, Calif., said it would spend the $250 million that Hastings had earmarked for the Starz renewal to buy audience-pleasing content from other distributors. Hastings has left no doubt that he intends to invest heavily in Netflix's Internet video library because he wants more subscribers to use that option. That would allow Netflix to cut postage and other costs to mail DVD rentals to its customers.

As it is, Starz has become less important to Netflix as the service expanded its streaming rights. In June, Sony also stopped allowing its movies, which include "Easy A" and "Grown Ups," to part of Starz streaming in June. Those factors have reduced Starz's share of Netflix streaming viewership in the U.S. to 8 percent, according to Netflix.

The rising cost for Internet streaming rights is one of the reasons that Netflix raised its prices for people who want to rent DVDs through the mail and stream video. The changes don't affect customers who subscribe to the streaming-only plan.

Starz's decision to end the talks with Netflix underscores the escalating tensions with pay-TV services that view Netflix's popularity as a competitive threat. Time Warner Inc.'s HBO has consistently refused to license its shows for Netflix streaming, and Showtime recently has declined to make some of its top series, including "Dexter" and "Californication" available to the service.

Morningstar analyst Michael Corty said he thinks Netflix can salvage the Starz deal, given there is still six months before the current contract expires. To do that, Netflix will likely have to pay even more than it intended because Starz appears to have more negotiating leverage, Corty said.

Although Albrecht's statement made it sound as if there is little chance of a new deal, Netflix left the door open.

"We have tremendous respect for the Starz creative team, and we look forward to someday licensing some of their original or licensed content," Netflix said in a statement.

The falling out with Starz added to the worries of Netflix investors already fretting about the higher prices driving away subscribers. Netflix's stock plunged $19.97 to $213.30 in extended trading Thursday, after the announcement by Starz. - AP

Latest business news from AP-Wire

Asian factories quieter in August

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 05:40 PM PDT

SINGAPORE: Slumping export demand slowed factory activity in some of Asia's biggest economies in August, although China fared better thanks to solid domestic growth, a series of surveys released yesterday showed.

The Purchasing Managers Indexes (PMI) showed manufacturing contracted in South Korea and Taiwan as new export orders fell sharply. China's official PMI increased slightly, the first rise since March, but it also reflected the effects of slowing demand in the United States and Europe.

China's overall PMI rose to 50.9 in August from 50.7 in July, according to government data, a touch weaker than economists polled by Reuters had predicted. The new export orders index dropped to 48.3 from July's 50.4.

Beijing pinned the blame for the sharp fall in export orders at least partly on the debt crises in advanced economies. The National Bureau of Statistics said the export sector was "facing challenges."

Taiwan's PMI dropped to 45.2 in August, the lowest reading since January 2009, which was in the middle of the global financial crisis that crushed world trade. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

"The West's deteriorating growth outlook is becoming an increasingly heavy burden to bear," said Donna Kwok, an economist with HSBC, which sponsors PMI reports in many countries including Taiwan.

HSBC's PMI figure for China showed factory activity contracted for a second consecutive month, although the decline was less pronounced than it was in July. HSBC's survey relies more heavily on private companies rather than the large state-owned enterprises that dominate the government's PMI report.

Weak economic growth in the United States and Europe has revived worries they will slip back into recession, which would deal a heavy blow to Asia's export-driven economies.

Most advanced economies have already cut interest rates to near zero, and with government finances constrained, policymakers have limited options for spurring stronger growth. That leaves the big emerging economies as the best hope for propping up global growth. They may not be up to the task.

Credit Suisse cut its growth forecasts yesterday for most Asian economies outside of Japan.

"Asian growth is set to slow more sharply than most expect over the coming months," Credit Suisse economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde wrote in a note to clients.

China is battling inflation at a three-year high, and Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday that Beijing would try to engineer a bigger drop in consumer prices in the second half of the year. Chinese officials have said repeatedly that fighting inflation is the top priority despite sluggish growth abroad.

Yesterday's data showed input prices rose in China last month, suggesting price pressures remain acute.

Brazil unexpectedly lowered interest rates on Wednesday because of concern about a global economic slowdown.

China is not the only Asian economy struggling to contain inflation. In South Korea, the consumer price index (CPI) hit a three-year high, up 5.3% in August from a year earlier, marking the eighth consecutive month that inflation has exceeded the Bank of Korea's target.

Thailand's CPI was also higher than expected.

This puts Asia's central bankers in a bind. Hot inflation points to more interest rate hikes, but the darkening global outlook argues for a policy pause.

China provided a bit of a counterweight to the global gloom. It has overtaken the United States and Europe as the top export destination for some Asian countries, so its rapid growth helps to cushion the export decline.

That also helped China's factories outperform those in many neighbouring countries. Although export orders fell sharply, overall new orders rose, indicating that domestic business continued to grow. - Reuters

Latest business news from AP-Wire


The Star Online: Sports

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Venus’ withdrawal because of Sjogren’s Syndrome eclipses action in Open

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:07 PM PDT


The US Open witnessed a major shock without a ball being struck in anger on Wednesday when Venus Williams quit the tournament after revealing she was suffering from an illness that could threaten her tennis future.       

After a buildup to the last Grand Slam of the year in which the event was threatened by an earthquake then a hurricane, the American's revelation was perhaps the most earth-shattering news of the week.

The two-time champion told officials of her withdrawal from the tournament less than an hour before she was due to face Germany's Sabine Lisicki in the second round.

Then she dropped the bombshell, revealing for the first time exactly what had kept her recent playing time down to a bare minimum.

"I have recently been diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome," she said in a statement. "(I) wish I could continue but right now I am unable to."

The disease drains victims of their energy and causes joint pain. For a professional tennis player, that spells trouble but Venus said she had no thoughts of retiring.       

"I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon," she said.       

At 31, speculation about her future in the sport is sure to intensify but fellow American Andy Roddick, who has been friends with the Williams sisters since they were children, said her health was the most important issue.        

"I do know one thing. I'm very concerned, because if Venus isn't playing at the US Open, it's got to be something," he said.

"She didn't withdraw because she's sneezing too much."       

Venus was not the only high-profile casualty at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday but her illness did overshadow most of the on-court action.

Andy Murray, Britain's perennial major hope, made a bright start to his campaign while Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro enjoyed a successful return to Flushing Meadows two years after his stunning title success.       

However, three seeded women made early exits at the hands of lower-ranked players.        

Marion Bartoli, Dominika Cibulkova and Yanina Wickmayer all departed while the only male seed to lose was Nicolas Almagro of Spain, although sixth seed Robin Soderling pulled out because of injury.

The Swede had been regarded as one of the few players able to challenge the big four of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray, but threw in the towel before his first round match.

Murray launched his campaign with a 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Somdev Devvarman of India. The Scotsman played below his best but still had plenty in reserve.       

"It's all about just winning," Murray said. "That's all that matters at the end of the day."       

Del Potro upset Federer to win the men's title two years ago but was unable to defend it because of a wrist injury that sidelined him for nearly nine months.       

He finally returned to the scene of his greatest triumph and the towering Argentine was in a hurry to make up for lost time, crushing Italy's Filippo Volandri 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

"It's my favourite tournament," Del Potro said. "I'm really happy to get the opportunity to play here again."       

The women's draw, already depleted by the absence of Kim Clijsters and the early defeats of Petra Kvitova and Li Na, lost Bartoli to American Christina McHale and Cilbulkova to Irina Falconi, another American, giving rise to hope that the US may eventually find a successor to the Williams sisters.       

Russia's Vera Zvonareva, last year's runner-up, was never in any real danger of joining the casualty list even though the second seed had a tough workout against Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko before triumphing 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.       

Third seed Maria Sharapova concluded the day with a late night 6-1, 6-1 romp past Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus in a match that started in August and finished in September because it trickled past midnight.

"A big part of our sport is adjusting to whatever comes our way, whether it's the time of a match or opponents or conditions on the court," Sharapova said.       

"It's one of the toughest things in our sport: sometimes you never know exactly what you're going to get." — Reuters

Champs in buoyant mood

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:05 PM PDT

JOHANNESBURG: The intense build-up and huge public expectation have given defending champions South Africa tremendous energy as they head to the World Cup, captain John Smit said yesterday.

The Springboks, hoping to become the first team to retain rugby's premier title, will fly out of Johannesburg later in the day after a public farewell in the tourist centre of Sandton that is expected to attract 100,000 fans.       

South Africa, who beat England in the final four years ago in France, overcame this year's World Cup hosts New Zealand 18-5 in the Tri-Nations last month to boost players' confidence and fans' hopes ahead of the tournament starting on Sept 9.

"There are similarities to 2007 in terms of preparation, but there's far greater expectation this time. In 2007, we hoped we'd do well, but this time the country really needs us to do well," Smit told a news conference.

"That expectation doesn't cage us though, it empowers us."       

The 2007 World Cup-winning captain said the team had stepped up their training since the Aug 20 victory over New Zealand in Port Elizabeth, while public support had also grown over that same time.

"The last two weeks have been incredible and have provided unbelievable energy for the squad," the 33-year-old said.       

"It's amazing to think there'll be close to 100,000 people to send us off this afternoon and the harder we work, the more the excitement seems to build. As a squad, we would like to just say 'thank you' for the energy we've received from outside.

"We've had a massive week-and-a-half of really hard training, it was time to put the hammer down, and when the players slump in their seats in the aeroplane tonight, I think they'll all be relieved that there's nobody to chase us around a field for the next 36 hours."

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said he was happy the South African public were getting behind his team.       

"There has been a lot of negativity about the Springboks, but for the last two weeks, that has changed and it's what the team needed," he said.

"Before, they were going over to New Zealand to satisfy themselves, but now they're going over to satisfy themselves, the rest of the team and the whole country too.

"They like the responsibility and I ask the public to support us, but don't be soft on us, be hard on us. That pushes us to the edge and brings out the best in the players." — Reuters

Eternal teenager Muliaina excited by World Cup finale

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:03 PM PDT

WELLINGTON: All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina expresses a snort of humorous derision when asked if he feels old.       

"Mate, I have just spent the whole day saying that I'm not!" the 31-year-old told Reuters at the New Zealand team's media day in Auckland.        

"Experience is a better way to put it, especially when you have guys like (lock) Brad Thorn (36) who is five to six, maybe 10 years older than me and I'm getting tagged as the old guy in the team.       

"Experience is a nice way to put it," he added with a smile.       

Whether he likes it or not, Muliaina is one of the oldest members of the 2011 World Cup squad, having accumulated 98 Test caps to sit tied with captain Richie McCaw for the most number of appearances for New Zealand.

Few are doubting the pair will reach the 100-cap milestone together and while McCaw looks an automatic choice for the early pool games given the injuries to fellow loose forwards Adam Thomson and Kieran Read, Muliaina is under pressure for his place from young pretenders like Israel Dagg and Isaia Toeava.       

Not that it concerns him.       

"I think it's exciting that there are guys there wanting to be in that fullback position and take your spot," he said of the possible challenge from Dagg in particular, who was electric in the All Blacks' loss to South Africa last month.       

"I have occupied it (the position) for a reasonable amount of time and you know when guys are nipping at your heels.        

"But there is an excitement factor with these guys and it's bringing the best out of a lot of guys, I have seen that and it's doing it for me.

"You only occupy the jersey one week after another, certainly with the talent we have got then I definitely want to start, but if that's not the case and I'm not good enough to be out there then my job is to make sure that guy does the best he can and we win this damn thing."       

Winning the Webb Ellis trophy has been something of a goal for Muliaina, who is making his third successive World Cup appearance, having been an integral part of the All Blacks since his international debut against England in June 2003.       

An exciting counter-attacker, he formed a potent back three with Joe Rokocoko and Doug Howlett eight years ago only for the All Blacks to crash out in the semi-finals to Australia, while he played centre in the 2007 quarter-final defeat to France.       That surprise 20-18 loss in Cardiff had motivated him to stay in New Zealand and attempt to make the 2011 World Cup squad and help the perennial favourites lift the trophy for the first time since they won the inaugural competition 24 years ago.       

"I think looking back if it had all gone well, I probably wouldn't be here today," said Muliaina, who is leaving New Zealand for a two-year stint with Japanese club NTT Docomo after the World Cup.       

"It took me about a year to really look at myself and look at whether I would be here (in New Zealand) in four years time.       "I had to look at my mind and the body, though the drive was still there to be an All Black and I had a word to a couple of coaches and I'm glad that happened ... and that I'm part of this tournament.       

"I know now this is the last one and I just have to make sure that it's successful." — Reuters


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Dr Tony Tan takes oath as new president of Singapore

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:06 AM PDT

SINGAPORE: Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam (pix) has been sworn in as the seventh President of Singapore at a ceremony held at the Istana on Thursday.

Dr Tan, 71, took his oath in the presence of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong for a six-year term.

In his speech, the soft spoken Dr Tan said he "wants to be President for all Singaporeans and a President all Singaporeans will be proud of."

The former Deputy Prime Minister said he would devote all his energy and all his heart to the new task, which he described as the biggest challenge of his political career.

Witnessed by Cabinet ministers, members of the judiciary, parliamentarians and senior civil servants, Dr Tan said Singaporeans have to work together to respond to the new challenges that the country was facing.

Dr Tan takes over the president's post from President S.R Nathan, 87, whose term ended on Aug 31 after serving as Singapore's head of state for the last 12 years.

He won the presidency in a four-cornered fight last week and after a recount of votes which saw him won by just over 7,000 votes.

Highway traffic slow at some stretches (Update)

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:01 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Several stretches of the North South Expressway are experiencing slow moving traffic.

PLUSTrafik said the slow traffic on the roads (mentioned below) as at 10pm Thursday were due to the increased in the number of vehicles especially those heading to Kuala Lumpur.

- Around Plaza Tol Juru heading south;

- Pendang to Gurun;

- Bukit Tambun to Jawi (due to an accident);

- Gopeng to Gua Tempurung;

- Bertam to Sg. Dua;

- Kuala Kangsar to Meru Tunnel;

- Taiping to Menora Tunnel;

- Pedas Linggi to Seremban R&R;

- Jasin to Ayer Keroh;

- Gombak, Bentong and Karak toll plazas heading to Kuala Lumpur.

PLUSTrafik can be contacted at 1-800-88-0000 for updates.

Vehicles on the NPE are expected to increase from now as people make their way back to the Klang Valley after the holidays.

Seventeen deaths were recorded under Ops Sikap on Wednesday while the number of accidents stood at 1,036.

Of the fatalities, 14 were motorcyclists while the rest were motorists.

Hisham: M'sia and Aust to find other ways to fight human trafficking

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 05:26 AM PDT

Published: Thursday September 1, 2011 MYT 8:27:00 PM

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia and Australia will find alternative ways of combating international human trafficking while respecting the Australian High Court's decision blocking the refugee swap deal between the two countries.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the court's decision on Wednesday would not affect the good relations between the two countries.

"The law must be respected. In the meantime, Malaysia and Australia will find alternative ways to continue the fight against human trafficking," he said Thursday.

He was asked to comment on the court's decision to block the deal which would have seen 800 asylum seekers in Australia sent here in return for 4,000 refugees in Malaysia to be sent to Australia.

The case was brought to the court by 16 asylum seekers who were to become the first to be flown to Malaysia from the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

More in The Star Friday


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Alyssa Milano and husband welcome a baby boy

Posted: 31 Aug 2011 09:15 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Alyssa Milano is a mom.

A publicist for the 38-year-old actress says Milano gave birth to a baby boy Wednesday morning: Milo Thomas Bugliari.

This is the first child for Milano and her husband, David Bugliari, who wed in August 2009.

Milano wrote on her Twitter page Wednesday that her heart "has tripled in size" and that she loves her new son "more than all the leaves on all the trees."

Milano starred in TV's "Who's the Boss?" and "Charmed" and can next be seen on screen in the ensemble comedy "New Year's Eve." Bugliari is an agent with Creative Artists Agency.

Aronofsky praises 'exciting' Venice lineup

Posted: 31 Aug 2011 05:10 PM PDT

VENICE, Italy (AP): Darren Aronofsky knows the joy of winning the Venice film festival's top prize - and this year it will be his job to help award it.

The director heads the jury at the 68th Venice Film Festival, which opened Wednesday. He said he doesn't remember ever seeing such an "exciting" lineup.

Nearly half of the competitors are high-powered English-language films, a sign of of Venice's growing prestige.

Aronofsky says Venice had been both beautiful and cruel to him. "Black Swan" opened last year's festival, and he won the Golden Lion in 2008 for "The Wrestler." "The Fountain" was less warmly received in 2006.

Twenty-three films are vying for the Golden Lion, to be awarded Sept. 10.

Aronofsky says he'll be looking for the films that affect him most "emotionally and intelectually."

George Clooney rules out political bid in US

Posted: 31 Aug 2011 05:07 PM PDT

VENICE, Italy (AP): Idealism loses out to cynicism in George Clooney's political drama "The Ides of March," which opens the Venice Film Festival.

Clooney directs and acts in the political drama that features Ryan Gosling as a gung-ho press secretary swept into a sex scandal in the final days of a Democratic presidential primary in Ohio. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are rival campaign managers who use loyalty as a weapon in their epic battle for victory.

Marisa Tomei plays a Times reporter angling for scoops on the campaign trail. And Evan Rachel Wood, a pretty campaign volunteer eager to play in the big leagues, is yet another figure giving female political interns a bad rap.

Clooney's idealistic presidential candidate, Pennsylvania Gov. Mike Morris, has a straightforward platform: He's nonreligious but defends the freedom of religion. He also opposes the death penalty and wants to phase out internal combustion engines to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.

Clooney plays the presidential candidate, but told reporters at the festival Wednesday he is not looking to be one in real life.

"As for running for president, look, there's a guy in office right now who is smarter than almost anyone you know, who's nicer and who has more compassion than almost anyone you know. And he's having an almost impossible time governing. Why would anybody volunteer for that job?" Clooney told a news conference.

"I have a really good job. I get to hang out with very seductive people. So I have no interest," Clooney said.

For Clooney, the film wasn't so much a political movie as a morality tale, exploring the question of whether the ends justify the means. The political arena "raised the stakes," a relaxed and jocular Clooney said, but the questions the film poses reside in many areas of life.

"You could literally put this in Wall Street, or you could put it pretty much anywhere. It's all the same sort of issues. It's issues of morality. It's issues of whether or not you are willing to trade your soul for an outcome," Clooney said.

In the film, many characters use seduction to get what they want: to get closer to power, to undermine the other campaign, to win political backing.

Giamatti called his character "an unabashedly seductive guy." His play to recruit Gosling's character to the rival campaign opens the film's exploration of loyalty and friendship in politics.

"My character is all about seduction ... the whole game of politics is a kind of sexy game in America, and I think (the movie) portrays it really well," Giamatti said.

And while Clooney and his fellow actors are willing to concede that Washington and Hollywood may share seduction and power as common currency, that doesn't mean the stakes are the same. Hollywood, they suggested, commands a disproportionate amount of popular attention.

"I do think there is a huge difference between Hollywood and Washington, you know, and what we are responsible for and what influence we wield. I think sometimes it gets forgotten, that the people who are governing us have a much more important position," Hoffman said.

The film's title - "The Ides of March" - highlights its undercurrent of betrayal. In Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warns the leader of imminent betrayal with the line "beware the ides of March."

"We thought that some of these themes seemed to be somewhat Shakespearean," Clooney said. "We will leave it up to people to decide who is Cassius and who's Brutus and who's Julius Caesar. Everyone has different points of view."

It is hard to shake off the film's ultimate cynicism, which seems to reflect the current mood and gridlock in U.S. politics. But perhaps such a movie requires a cynical moment. Clooney said he shelved the movie in the face of brimming optimism following the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

"It took about a year, and that was over," he said, with irony. Still, he expressed hope that this, too, will pass.

"Cynicism seems to be winning over idealism right now. I think it will change. I hope it will change. Soon," Clooney said.

Clooney, who has a villa in northern Italy on Lake Como, is a familiar face at the Lido. He's directed or acted in six films that have been shown in Venice since 2003, including "Good Night and Good Luck," "Burn After Reading" and "Michael Clayton."

"The Ides of March" is Clooney's first directorial effort to headline the festival. It is vying for the Golden Lion, which will be awarded Sept. 10.


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Rihanna sues over leaks at $7 million LA-area home

Posted: 31 Aug 2011 07:00 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP): Rihanna is suing over a hillside home that she claims has serious structural defects that rendered in uninhabitable.

The pop singer on Wednesday sued Prudential California Realty and several companies that designed and inspected the home.

The "S&M" singer's lawsuit claims she would not have paid $6.9 million for the home in 2009 if she had known about the problems.

She claims water leaked into several rooms of the house from a balcony that lacks the proper slope and drainage after a rainstorm in early 2010.

The suit states the damage left the home "uninhabitable."

She claims Landmark Design Group, which remodeled the home, has failed to make necessary repairs.

Landmark could not be reached for comment. Prudential spokeswoman Wendy Durand says the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Marc Anthony to ABC: Split not 'sensationalistic'

Posted: 31 Aug 2011 06:15 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): Marc Anthony is setting the record straight on his breakup from Jennifer Lopez in an upcoming exclusive interview with ABC.

Anthony tells ABC's "Nightline" that the crumbling of their marriage "wasn't something sensationalistic."

Tabloids have claimed Anthony was unfaithful, but he says the truth is the union no longer worked. He also says the decision was mutual.

The pair announced their split in July after seven years of marriage. The couple has 3-year-old twins named Max and Emme.

Anthony says he wants to move forward with his life and career. He summarizes his situation as "not a funeral, not a burial."

Part of the interview will air on Thursday's "Good Morning America." The full interview will air Thursday night on ABC's "Nightline."

Maroon 5 making moves thanks to 'Jagger,' 'Voice'

Posted: 31 Aug 2011 05:08 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP): Before joining NBC's "The Voice," Adam Levine says some folks assumed he was some "singing bimbo that likes girls." So he's grateful to the show for providing a bit of clarification on his image.

"It was a nice opportunity to show my personality - that I have a brain," said the lead singer of Maroon 5. "It's also true: I am a bimbo and I like to sing and I like girls, but there's more to my personality; it's a little more dynamic than that, and I like to show that on the show. It's cool."

The singing competition - which also features Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton as music coaches - was a hit in its first season. The four coaches chose teams of eight after an audition process that allowed them only to hear the contestant's voice, but not to see them. Once teams were whittled down to one contestant for each coach, Levine's mentee - the crooner Javier Colon - was crowned the winner.

"The Voice" helped showcase the playful and sillier side of the heavily-inked Levine. Band keyboardist Jesse Carmichael says Levine's presence on the show "was so positive for him definitely as a person, but for us as a band, too."

Now, the group is taking advantage of the buzz: They recently released "Moves Like Jagger," which features "Voice" co-star Aguilera, and it will be the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 charts Thursday. It also hit No. 1 on the European and Canadian charts.

The dance song is a departure for the pop-rockers, and they say they're rushing to get a new album out this fall. In the past, the group released an album every three or four years.

"We're going to make it as quickly as we can (and) ride this wave of momentum," Levine said in an interview last week.

"That's too long," he explained about past breaks between records. "We can't do that anymore. We've got to keep moving."

The Grammy-winning group's 2002 debut, "Songs About Jane," sold 4.7 million units and they followed that with another multiplatinum-seller, 2006's "It Won't Be Soon Before Long." Last fall, they dropped their third album, the gold-selling "Hands All Over," which was re-released to feature "Jagger."

On Maroon 5's upcoming album, the group says they want to take a new direction. "Jagger" was produced by Benny Blanco and Shellback, hitmakers for acts like Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Britney Spears.

"We can definitely stand to take more risks," Levine said. "It's awesome to have that little feeling in your stomach like, 'Oh, this isn't safe, this isn't normal for us' ... (and) if you don't do that, I think you're dead as a band."

The second season of "The Voice" premieres after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.


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