Ahad, 11 September 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Desert escape: from Gaddafi's inner circle to Niger

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 09:40 PM PDT

NIAMEY (Reuters) - A loud banging on the door of his Tripoli home told Agali Alambo, a former Nigerien rebel leader who had worked his way into Muammar Gaddafi's inner circle, it was time to get out.

A man gestures near camels at the camel market in Agadez, northern Niger September 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Luc Gnago)

Alambo, now in Niger's capital Niamey, told Reuters in an interview how he had fled the Libyan capital as it was overrun by forces of the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council.

"The NTC was in the city, going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood ... They came to my house and they started knocking on the door but I didn't open," Alambo recalled.

"An elderly woman from next door appeared. When she told them there were women inside and to stop hassling them, they became a bit sheepish. I escaped over the roofs."

Before the uprising against Gaddafi, Alambo, 47, had made himself a key part of the ousted leader's security structures. Thousands of his fellow Tuaregs were regulars in Gaddafi's army, a way for them to earn a better living than back home in Niger.

During his flight, Alambo had to use all his considerable contacts and local knowledge of the desert between Libya and its southern neighbour to make good his escape.

His account provides at least some of the back story to the movements across the Libyan border earlier this week that ended with a clutch of ex-Gaddafi loyalists, including three top generals and a security chief, seeking refuge in Niger.

As NATO-backed rebels advanced on Gaddafi's remaining troops, Alambo's story is also that of an intimate circle of officials around Gaddafi that was beginning to fragment.

"For a month or so we'd had no contact with the Guide (Gaddafi), we didn't know where he was. The telephones didn't work and as soon as you switch on the satellite phone you signal to NATO where you are -- so we didn't use them."

Alambo, who before heading to Libya led the Tuareg rebellion against Niger's government between 2007 and 2009, said it was open season on African migrants -- popularly assumed to be pro-Gaddafi mercenaries -- in his Tripoli neighbourhood.

"Four Africans were gunned down 100, 200 metres (yards) from where I lived and their bodies thrown in the courtyard of a clinic there ... It was absolute chaos."

A friend found him a driver and Alambo fled to Bani Walid, the town of his Libyan wife's family and now one of Gaddafi's last strongholds. There he met up with an old acquaintance, Mansour Dhao, the chief of security brigades, and the two agreed to head to the southern town of Sabha.


After a series of hasty meetings with contacts in the city they concluded there was only safe option: escape through Niger.

"The Algerian border to the west was closed, just after Gaddafi's wife and children went through. On the Chad side, I don't know what is going on but a group of (local ethnic) Toubou fighters loyal to the NTC were blocking the way."

The journey of more than 1,000 km (600 miles) south through the desert to the northern Niger city of Agadez took two and a half days. According to Alambo, it was undertaken only after informing authorities in Niger -- a fact which explains the security escort waiting for them by the border last weekend.

"We passed through the Murzuq triangle (desert in southern Libya), the Salvador (border) pass and then straight down to Agadez. We had three vehicles and a fourth came to meet us with more petrol towards the end," he said.

Their arrival and transfer to Niamey has since been confirmed by Nigerien authorities, who says it took them in on humanitarian grounds and has no reason to arrest them.

They are due to be joined in Niamey by a second contingent of Libyan officials who turned up in Agadez late on Thursday, including General Ali Kana, the Tuareg who led Gaddafi's southern troops, airforce chief Ali Sharif al-Rifi, and Murzuq military commander General Mohammed Abydalkarem.

It is unclear what will happen to them next. That could depend on the outcome of meetings with a delegation of NTC officials expected in Niamey in the next few days.

Niger has said that if Gaddafi or his sons showed up, it would respect its commitments to the International Criminal Court, which wants Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi to face trial for alleged crimes against humanity.

Alambo says he has no knowledge now of the whereabouts of Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam or Saadi, another son.

"I can't be sure of anything about Gaddafi's sons," insists Alambo. "I haven't seen then although I heard that Saif al-Islam went up to Bani Walid and then arrived in Sabha around Sept. 3, after us. People said he wanted to carry on resisting ... I didn't see him and I don't know what they are going to do."

(Writing by Mark John; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Civilians in peril; Gaddafi son flees to Niger

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 09:40 PM PDT

TRIPOLI/OUTSIDE BANI WALID, Libya (Reuters) - - Libya's new rulers said on Sunday their fighters were holding back an assault on one of the last bastions loyal to Muammar Gaddafi after fighting their way into the town and finding civilians in peril.

A Kingdom of Libya flag flies from a vehicle as an anti-Gaddafi fighter takes a break while driving back from the frontline as the sun rises over a desert road leading south out of the besieged city of Bani Walid September 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal)

Southern neighbour Niger said one of the fugitive former leader's sons, Saadi Gaddafi, had turned up there after crossing the remote Sahara desert frontier.

The National Transitional Council, which is trying to exert its control over the entire country three weeks after its fighters stormed Tripoli, said it plans to unveil a new, more inclusive government for the country in 7-10 days.

It also said it had begun producing oil, Libya's economic lifeblood, production of which had been all but halted throughout six months of civil war. In Tripoli, NTC fighters revealed they had captured Gaddafi's foreign spy chief.

Graphic on rebel leadership, click http://link.reuters.com/quz33s

Graphics on Libya/Middle East, click http://r.reuters.com/nym77r

The NTC says it will not declare Libya "liberated" until it has taken control of towns still in the hands of Gaddafi loyalists. It had given holdout towns a deadline of Saturday to surrender, and its fighters have been battling since Friday inside the town of Bani Walid.

They said on Sunday they were meeting stiff resistance in the town 150 km (95 miles) southeast of the capital and were also edging towards the ousted ruler's birthplace Sirte.

"We are inside Bani Walid, we control big chunks of the city. There are still pockets of resistance," one fighter named Sabhil Warfalli said as he drove away from the front line in the town 150 km (95 miles) southeast of Tripoli.

But the advance into the town seems to have stalled after heavy fighting. NTC spokesman Ahmed Bani told reporters the plan for Bani Walid for now was to wait.

"When our forces entered Bani Walid they found the brigades of Gaddafi using citizens as shields," he told reporters. He said Gaddafi fighters had put missile launchers on the roofs of houses with civilian families inside, making it impossible for NTC forces or their allied NATO war planes to strike.

Fighters said they were meeting fiercer resistance than expected in the town. Ambulances were rushing between the front and field hospitals. Civilians were fleeing.

A man who lived in the town centre was driving out in a car packed with his wife, some small children and assorted family members. "There is no food. People are trying to bring us food and medicine but Gaddafi gangs turn them away," he said.


The NTC has made a priority of hunting down Gaddafi and his seven sons. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the NTC chairman, said Gaddafi is still a threat as long as he is at large.

"Gaddafi still has money and gold," he said. "These are the fundamental things that will allow him to find men."

The justice minister of Niger said Gaddafi's son Saadi had been intercepted in a convoy after crossing the frontier, heading in the direction of the oasis town of Agadez. Two of Gaddafi's other sons, Mohamed and Hannibal, and his only daughter Aisha have already obtained shelter in Algeria.

Three sons remain at large -- Mutassim and Khamis who both run elite military units, and Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's one-time heir apparent who like his father is wanted for war crimes by the international court in the Hague. One son, Saif al-Arab, was reported killed during the war.

Asked what Saadi Gaddafi's status in the country was, Niger Justice Minister Marou Adamou said only that Niger would fulfill its humanitarian obligations. Washington and others have put pressure on neighbouring states not to shelter Gaddafi or officials who are wanted for crimes.

The NTC, based for months in the eastern city of Benghazi, faces the difficult task of winning the support of all Libyans, including fighters from towns and cities in the west who did the bulk of the fighting in the rapid advance on Tripoli.

The interim government also has to deliver on promises to quickly restart an economy frozen by international sanctions, the halt in oil production and an exodus of foreign worker.

Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril announced the NTC would form a more inclusive interim government within 10 days. He said it had started to produce some oil on Saturday, but gave no details of where or how much.

Inside the capital, Reuters reporters saw Bouzaid Dorda, a former prime minister who ran Gaddafi's external spy service, held by a group of about 20 fighters under guard in a house in the capital's Zenata district. A fighter said he would be handed over to the interim authorities later on Sunday.

A tall, lanky figure in safari jacket and slip-on shoes, Dorda was sitting on a sofa and was not physically restrained but an armed guard sat beside him. He declined a request for an interview, but in response to an assertion by a fighter that he had killed people, he replied: "Prove it."

"I am innocent until proven guilty. I am willing to be referred to the Libyan prosecutor general," he said. Visibly agitated, he added: "You have to remember it was a regime already in existence."


Bani Walid resident Khalifa Telisi, who had telephoned a family inside the town, said fighting was concentrated around the central market area, where Gaddafi forces were based.

"There is still resistance from the central market. All other parts of Bani Walid have been liberated," Telisi said.

Inside the town, a pro-Gaddafi local radio station appealed for the city's 100,000 people to fight to the death.

"We urge the people of Bani Walid to defend the city against the rats and armed gangs. Don't back down. Fight to the death. We are waiting for you. You are just a bunch of gangsters. God is on our side," an announcer said. The language echoed turns of phrase used by Gaddafi in recent broadcasts.

Gaddafi's loyalists also control Sirte, which sits on the main east-west coastal highway, effectively cutting Libya in two. Advancing NTC troops said the front line was now about 90 km east of the city.

Fighters were firing tanks and howitzers amid the sound of heavy machinegun fire and the roar of NATO warplanes overhead.

"There were clashes this morning and Gaddafi forces were firing Grad rockets, but we managed to advance a little bit and we will enter Sirte very soon," fighter Salah al-Shaery said.

The United Nations says it is worried about the fate of civilians trapped inside the besieged pro-Gaddafi bastions.

"Our big concern right now is Sirte, where we are receiving reports that there's no water and no electricity," U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told Reuters in an interview.

She said the world body was also worried about the fate of sub-Saharan African migrants, who face revenge attacks as suspected mercenaries even though most are ordinary labourers.

(Additional reporting by Sherine El Madany near Sirte, Emma Farge in Benghazi, Hisham el-Dani, Alexander Dziadosz and Mohammed Abbas in Tripoli, Barry Malone and Sylvia Westall in Tunis and Charlie Dunmore in Brussels; Writing by Alistair Lyan; Editing by Peter Graff)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Turkish PM to visit Egypt, boost regional influence

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 09:09 PM PDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan meets Egypt's new military rulers during a visit to Cairo starting on Monday that is likely to be scrutinised by Israel whose once cosy ties with both Muslim states have been shaken.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media in Ankara September 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

Erdogan's trip will be followed by visits to Libya and Tunisia, which, like Egypt, have thrown off long-time rulers, highlighting Turkey's bid to expand its regional influence.

Egypt has long viewed itself as a leading voice in the Arab world but Turkey's influence has risen steadily with its growing economic might and its assertive policy in the region, notably towards Israel, which has drawn praise from many Arabs.

"There will be rivalry over a regional role for sure. Egypt is not in a position to play such a role at the moment so Erdogan is trying to take advantage of that," said Adel Soliman, head of Cairo's International Centre for Future and Strategic Studies.

Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador in a feud over an Israeli raid last year that killed nine Turks on a flotilla bound for the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

Egypt said it would withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv last month after five Egyptian border guards were killed when Israel repelled cross-border raiders it said were Palestinian. But it did not follow through with the threat.

Egypt's army rulers have struggled to quell the public fury over the incident, which boiled over into an attack by protesters on the Israeli embassy that prompted Israel to fly its ambassadaor and embassy staff home on Saturday.

Both Egypt and Israel say they want a return to normal diplomatic activities. Cairo has vowed to protect the embassy and try the attackers, offering some reassurance to Israel over its commitment to a 1979 peace treaty.


Despite their spats with Israel, Soliman played down prospects of the two nations aligning policies against the Jewish state.

"I don't think they will have any big agreements when it comes to Israel," he said. "There is a lot of exaggeration, I see it more as theatrics than anything practical."

Egypt has received billions of dollars in U.S. military and other aid since signing its peace treaty with Israel, so the ruling generals face a balancing act when responding to public calls for a more assertive policy to towards the Jewish state.

When asked on Sunday about the attack on Israel's Cairo embassy, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu only said Egyptians had given their own reaction and said Israel was more isolated.

But he added: "We as Turkey say that we will continue to bring on to the agenda Israel's incorrect attitudes in all global platforms in the framework of international law and after this Israel will become even more isolated."

Uzi Rabi, Middle East analyst at Tel Aviv university, said Erdogan's trip was part of his bid to "strengthen his foothold in the Arab world."

"He will use his visit to Cairo as a barometer to measure just how popular he is in the Arab street but some Arab leaders may not be as enthusiastic about seeing him feed on this popularity," he added.

Erdogan will meet Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling council that took over when Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February. He is expected to address the Cairo-based Arab League.

The Turkish prime minister will also meet his Egyptian counterpart Essam Sharaf. The two are due to sign a political declaration to create a strategic council for cooperation and will sign economic, trade, investment and other accords.

Erdogan is due to visit Tunisia on Wednesday and hold talks in Libya on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Ibon Villelabeitia in Istanbul and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Be a music guru

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 01:08 AM PDT

PUT your music knowledge to the test with Rudyoke this week during Red FM's Breakfast Show with Rudy and Jeremy (Monday to Friday, 6am-10am), and you won't be the one singing for your supper as there's a delicious prize in store for you.

Listen up and listen hard as you need to guess the song being sung by random strangers belting their hearts out. If you get it right, you win dining vouchers worth RM200 from Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie hotel. A wide range of dining options is awaiting the lucky "music guru" of the day at this tranquil retreat.

If you missed getting your hands on that yummy prize, fret not because you can try catching the Red FM deejays to win cash, gadgets and most importantly a brand new car.

The Red FM's Runaway DJs contest will see the announcers including Rudy and Jeremy taking turns to hit the road in a Proton Inspira. They will be stopping at secret destinations every weekday and you have to find out where they are.

Hints of their whereabouts will be given out every hour on air as well as online through Red FM's Facebook Fan page and Twitter. Compete to be the first listener to turn up at the correct location and identify the Red FM's Runaway DJ. You then win cash and a key which will take you to the finale for the chance to drive away with a brand new Proton Inspira!

Be on the alert because we will be rewarding bonus prizes such as iPad 2s and iPod Nanos at selected times. You could also win a key if the Red Ryders spot your car with the Red FM Runaway DJs car stickers on it. The Red Ryders will be distributing these special car stickers during their stops, so walk up and take one for yourself.

For further details on the contest, log on to www.red.fm. Also, join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/redfm.my) and follow them 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.

Charlie Sheen's 'winning' ways get roasted on TV

Posted: 10 Sep 2011 10:59 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: He may have looked like he was ''winning,'' but actor Charlie Sheen took it on the chin Saturday night at a Comedy Central TV roast where his sex life, drug use and talent drew punches - and punch lines.

Sheen, once TV's highest paid actor on the comedy series ''Two and a Half Men'' before he was fired in March by the CBS network, has seen numerous ups and downs in recent years.

He was arrested on charges of assaulting his former wife Brooke Mueller, who turned out for the Comedy Central roast.

He saw his drug and alcohol use make headlines around the world. And after his firing, Sheen went on a public rant against his old bosses.

The actor, 46, posted videos of himself online saying he had ''tiger blood'' and was always ''winning'' against rivals.

He dated two women at one time he called his goddesses, and some onlookers wondered if he had become mentally unstable.

''This is hard. How do you roast a meltdown?'' joked comedian Jeffrey Ross, dressed in military costume to look like a caricature of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

''How much blow can Charlie Sheen do?'' asked former ''Saturday Night Live'' comedian Jon Lovitz, ''Enough to kill 'Two and a Half Men.'''

Rocker Slash ushered Sheen onto the Comedy Central stage, and host Seth MacFarlane introduced the roasters - an odd mix of celebrities including Ross, Lovitz, actor William Shatner, actress Kate Walsh, ''Jackass'' stuntman Steve-O and former world heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson.

While many of the jokes used language too strong for print, as is typical of these programs, the roasting of Sheen was fairly lukewarm compared to others.

Through it all, the actor, dressed in a gray suit and red tie, sat in his chair and took the hits, mostly laughing, sometimes rolling his eyes.

''It's true I've hung around a lot of shady characters,'' Sheen said when he took the microphone for his turn to speak, ''but to have you all here on one night is really special.''

The Comedy Central roast airs on Sept. 19.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Djokovic and Nadal game to serve up another classic

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:50 PM PDT


NOVAK Djokovic and Rafa Nadal will meet in the US Open final for the second year in a row after winning their semi-finals on a day of unrelenting drama and precision tennis at Flushing Meadows on Saturday.

Djokovic showed why he is the hottest player in the game right now when he saved two match points to roar back from the brink of defeat and beat Roger Federer in a five-set thriller that whipped the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd into a frenzy of excitement.

Then Nadal, his form and confidence soaring with each match he plays, powered past Britain's Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 and set up a mouthwatering rematch between the top two players in the world.

Nadal beat Djokovic 12 months ago to complete his collection of Grand Slam titles but the Serbian has had his measure this year.

"I've lost my last five matches against him, five finals," Nadal said. "He's obviously the favourite for the final, and I know I have to do something better than those other matches to try and change the situation.

For Djokovic, who has already won two Grand Slam titles this year, at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, there was just relief that he made the final after he survived a pulsating contest with Federer that could have gone either way.

Federer won the first two sets then regained his composure to lead 5-3 in the fifth.

The Swiss maestro, a five-time champion at Flushing Meadows served for the match and had two match points, but Djokovic saved them both and won the last four games to complete an incredible comeback.

"It's a sport where one wins, one loses," Djokovic said. "We have a saying, 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Djokovic also hailed his epic five-set US Open semi-final triumph over Federer.

"This is my greatest victory of 2011 and one of the greatest of my career,"

"I managed to play better, to switch gears, and I managed to play two incredible sets - third and fourth. Then I felt it's the moment when I should step in and show what I got, and it paid off."

For Federer, it was a heart-breaking loss. He may have won more Grand Slam titles than any other man that has played the game but his last was at the 2010 Australian Open. Now on the wrong side of 30, he doesn't move as fast as he once could and hit a string of ugly shanks.

"Sure, it's disappointing, but I have only myself to blame," said Federer. "I set it all up perfect, but I couldn't finish it."       

"It hurts, but it's fine. It could be worse. It could be a final."

Murray, 24, never really threatened Nadal although he had the consolation of taking a set off him, a feat that none of his other opponents have managed at the US Open this year. He played aggressively, cracking 44 winners, 13 more than Nadal, but his 55 unforced errors were more than twice his opponent's total.

The Scotsman still has time on his side but he carries the added burden of 75 years of British frustration.

The world number four made the semi-finals of all four Grand Slams this year but is still searching for his first major win.

"It's something I want to try and achieve, but if you want to judge someone's whole career based purely on Slams, I would have had a terrible career," he said.

"I've still got hopefully three or four more years where I'm playing the tennis in my peak. I need to stay healthy and improve." — Reuters


Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Roger Federer (Swi) 6-7 (7-9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5; Rafael Nadal (Spa) bt Andy Murray (Bri ) 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 .

Jurgen Melzer- Philipp Petzschner (Aut- Ger) bt Mariusz Fyrstenberg- Marcin Matkowski (Pol) 6-2, 6-2.

Serena Williams (US) bt Caroline Wozniacki (Den) 6-2, 6-4; Samantha Stosur (Aus) bt Angelique Kerber (Ger) 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

Dyson wins third Dutch Open title in six years

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:47 PM PDT

HILVERSUM (Holland): Simon Dyson claimed his third Dutch Open title in six years with a one–shot win over fellow Briton David Lynn yesterday.       

A closing four–under 66 for a 12–under 268 over an Hilversumsche course saturated by week–long heavy rain earned the 33–year–old victory.       Another former winner, US Open champion Rory McIlroy, was two strokes behind.       

Dyson, the winner of the event in 2006 and 2009, began the final round two strokes adrift of another Briton, Gary Orr and South African James Kingston.

However, a three–birdie run from the 12th took him past early frontrunner Orr and to the top of the leaderboard.       

A birdie finish by Dyson was then just enough to hold off Lynn, who picked up a shot on the last to go past McIlroy. Orr's bogey on 18 relegated the 44–year–old to fourth place, three strokes in arrears of Dyson.       

Dyson's win, worth US$427,000, was his second of the season following success in the Irish Open and sixth of his career, taking him to ninth on the European money list, into the world's top 50 and second on the European Ryder Cup points table.       

His third success in Holland equalled the feats of Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer.

"It was pointed out to me when I received the trophy; to be mentioned in the same breath as Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer is such an honour," Dyson told reporters. "It's something I'll cherish all my life.       

"The last seven holes today were some of the best golf I've ever played."       

McIlroy, playing alongside Dyson, charged to within a stroke of the lead early on but intermittent mistakes dented the Northern Irishman's chances.              

His consolation was to edge past Germany's Martin Kaymer, who missed the cut, into the world number three position.        

"I should have made more of the fast start I had," McIlroy said after enhancing his finish by also closing with two birdies for a 67.        "But two top threes in a row and maybe another move up the world rankings, it's not been a bad couple of weeks."       

World number two Lee Westwood's 66 took him up to fifth place, four strokes behind Dyson.       

Britain and Ireland's Seve Trophy captain Paul McGinley was unable to find the form that earned him a scintillating 64 in the third round and he finished five strokes adrift. – Reuters       

Monza win moves Vettel closer to second title

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:44 PM PDT


DEFENDING drivers' world champion Sebastian Vettel moved within sight of retaining his title with ease yesterday when he drove to a comprehensive victory at a crash-hit and thrilling Italian Grand Prix.

As the 24-year-old German steered his Red Bull car clear of the field, his nearest title rival and team-mate Mark Webber, 35, crashed out - leaving the dazzling Vettel to open up a luxurious 112 points lead with six races remaining.

Briton Jenson Button finished second in the leading McLaren after a typically well judged drive.

Two-time champion and local hero Fernando Alonso fought to hang on for a rousing third place for Ferrari, to the delight of the tifosi who invaded the circuit at the finish to cheer their famous team's colours on the elevated podium.

Alonso is now second in the title race, albeit a massive 112 points behind, meaning Vettel is now likely to win his second title at the Japanese Grand Prix in early October providing he does not suffer any catastrophic setback in Singapore later this month.

Lewis Hamilton, frustrated by Michael Schumacher and ultimately frustrated also by Alonso in the closing laps, came home fourth, just a few metres behind Alonso.

Schumacher, a five-time winner at Monza, finished fifth for Mercedes thanks to another performance that stirred memories of his halcyon days as the supreme champion.

Vettel's win was his eighth of the season and the 18th of his exceptional, if brief career, bringing him also his 31st podium finish in only his 75th race - a record that hoists him into the company of many of the sport's greatest.

He won his maiden F1 race three years ago in torrential rain at the same Monza circuit for the Toro Rosso team and, perhaps signalling his feelings about that memory and his progress, he was close to tears as he acknowledged the hordes below on the circuit.

"Well done Sebastian, you have won the Italian Grand Prix. Fantastic," said his team chief Red Bull on the team radio.

"Yes! Yes! We did it," replied the driver. "Nobody can believe it. We did it! Thank you boys."

At the start Vettel was slow to accelerate away from his 10th pole this year and the 25th of his career - allowing both Hamilton and Alonso, from fourth place, to draw alongside in the roaring run to the first chicane.

There Alonso took command for Ferrari with great courage and aplomb ahead of Vettel with Hamilton third and, remarkably, Schumacher, who started eighth and swept through to fourth.

Behind this cluster of champions, the first chicane claimed its usual bunch of victims as Italian Vitantioni Liuzzi of Hispania ran off on the approach and on to the grass and, out of control, slid sideways into the Renault of Russian Vitaly Petrov who, in turn, smacked into the Mercedes of German Nico Rosberg.

This trio were eliminated and the safety car was sent out while the mechanical carnage was cleared.

The field remained unchanged with Alonso in front until the safety car came in at the start of lap four when a sleepy Hamilton was passed by the alert and in-form Schumacher, making light of his age.

One lap later, more drama erupted when Webber collided with Felipe Massa, his Red Bull losing the front wing which was stuck under his car.

Inevitably, Webber crashed out at Parabolica shortly after Vettel had taken the lead with a bold attack around the outside of Alonso at Curva di Lesmo.

As Vettel surged two seconds clear behind him there was a notable scrap between Hamilton and Schumacher.

In one episode, Hamilton passed Schumacher who responded and regained his place.

In another, as Hamilton - in the faster car - went by on the inside approach to Lesmo, Schumacher chopped across him and forced him briefly on to the grass. — AFP

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

UK banks face profit hit from proposed reforms

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 05:54 PM PDT

LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) Britain's banks would face tough new measures that could hit their profits, although the reforms could take years to implement, under proposals to be finalised in a key government-sponsored report on Monday.

The final report from the Independent Commission on Banking was expected to back protecting ordinary savers and customers by ringfencing banks' retail divisions from riskier investment banking and trading arms.

Analysts have said the new measures could cost the industry 10 billion pounds ($15.9 billion).

The Financial Times reported in its Monday edition that it could cost British banks 6 billion pounds.

Britain set up the ICB last year after the global credit crisis saw the government having to fully nationalise Northern Rock and partnationalise Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds .

The government now has stakes of 83 percent and 41 percent in RBS and Lloyds, respectively.

Finance minister George Osborne has already backed the idea of ringfencing banks' retail operations deemed to be vital to the broader economy, and a Treasury source said Osborne was pleased with the ICB's final report.

"He thinks it is a very good report and regards it as an important step in reforming our banks so that we do not repeat the terrible mistakes of the last few years," the source said.

Yet the banks could be given years to implement the reforms after recent financial market turmoil and a deepening euro zone debt crisis raised fears over the impact of swifter change.

Britain's "Big Four" banks Barclays , HSBC , Lloyds and RBS have fought hard against excessively tough new regulation and were expected to continue lobbying after the ICB's report is out.


Differing opinions over how to tackle the banks in the wake of the credit crisis have caused tension in the Conservativeled coalition government formed with the Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has been alone in seeking a full splitup of retail and investment banking operations into two new companies.

Labour's opposition finance minister, Ed Balls, has said he would like a "tough but fair" ringfencing mechanism.

"Banks must be left under no illusion that reform is coming. The recession is not an excuse for postponing banking reform. Indeed our economic recovery depends on it," Cable wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

The ringfencing approach would get lenders to form separate subsidiaries for retail and investment banking operations while keeping the same parent holding company.

The reforms would likely hit banks' profit because of the implications for their funding costs, which could, in turn, make it harder for them to lend to businesses. The ICB is still to define how the separation should occur how much retail capital and deposits the banks should be able to use to fund their investment banking arms.

The ICB, headed by Oxford University academic John Vickers, was also expected to confirm a request for banks to hold more capital targeting core Tier 1 capital of 10 percent of riskweighted assets.

Analysts expected Barclays would face the biggest hit to its profit from the ICB's proposals.

Lloyds could be affected if the ICB reiterated a recommendation to sell more assets than it has already been told to do by regulators, although Lloyds's progress on the sale of some 630 branches could mean it might avoid this.

After the final report is issued, the government will choose what to implement into law, probably starting late this year or early in 2012.

However, banks could have years to bring in the reforms, perhaps until 2019 for full implementation, since the ongoing financial market turmoil has raised concerns over the impact of swifter change.

British banking stocks all fell sharply on Friday. Barclays fell 9.4 percent, Lloyds closed down 5.7 percent, RBS fell 5.5 percent while HSBC ended down 3.4 percent.

($1 = 0.629 British Pounds)

World bank to invest in new hedge fund

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 05:48 PM PDT

LONDON , Sept 12 (Reuters) The World Bank is investing in a hedge fund in order to help banks reduce capital that new rules will force them to set aside against loans to small companies in emerging markets, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The International Finance Corp, the World Bank's privatesector lending arm, is putting $100 million into a new fund being set up by Christofferson Robb & Co, which is based in London and New York.

The firm's New York founders are raising another $300 million (189 million pounds) from private investors.

The hedge fund will put up cash to cover unexpected loan losses in return for a cut from a bank. The fund's cash will lower the bank's requirements under the Basel rules and reduce the impact of planned tighter rules

The FT said the IFC fund will operate mainly with big international banks and will encourage an extra $2.5 billion to $4 billion of lending to developing countries.

Involved banks will be required to recycle the money freed by the "bilateral synthetic capital release securities" that the fund creates back into developing markets.

New Zeland's Q2 wholesale sales rise

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 05:46 PM PDT

WELLINGTON, Sept 12 (Reuters) New Zealand's seasonally adjusted wholesale sales rose 2.2 percent in the three months to June, according to official data on Monday.

It was the seventh consecutive quarterly increase and was driven by a 9.8 percent rise in the 'other goods wholesaling' sector that includes textiles, footwear and pharmaceuticals, with a 4.5 percent increase in motor vehicle sales, Statistics New Zealand reported.

Basic materials wholesaling was the only fall in the June quarter, down 0.7 percent.

The value of sales in the quarter was NZ$20.7 billion ($17 billion).

The level of wholesale stocks fell a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent, from the previous quarter's 0.2 percent fall.

The survey monitors the level of activity in the wholesale trade sector, which supplies retailers.

In a separate release, the agency said guest nights in short term commercial accommodation rose 2.0 percent in July from a year earlier, the third monthly increase.

The increase was driven by a rise in domestic tourist activity, with the number of local guest nights up 8.5 percent.

The number of nights spent by international tourists fell 8.9 percent, pulled down by a drop in South Island regions.

International visitor arrivals have fallen in the past four months, which has been attributed to the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes and the disruption to air travel from the eruption of a volcano in Chile.

Tourism accounts for around 10 percent of New Zealand's gross domestic product.

New Zealand's economy is expected to have grown by 0.6 percent in the three months to June 30, according to a preliminary Reuters poll.

The economy grew an unexpected 0.8 percent in the March quarter, shrugging off the devastating Christchurch earthquake and reflecting a resilient domestic economy.

Second quarter GDP will be released on September 22. ($1=NZ$1.22)

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Dr M: Some History text books inaccurate need clearer explanation

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 05:27 AM PDT

Published: Sunday September 11, 2011 MYT 5:32:00 PM
Updated: Sunday September 11, 2011 MYT 8:27:26 PM

ALOR SETAR: History needs to be clearly explained but must not be influenced by current politics, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said

"Current text books are inaccurate as they had not given a clear background on the fight for the nation's independence.

"Not much is mentioned on the roles played by leaders such as first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra.

"And, because of this, the younger generation do not understand the country's history and origin," the former prime minister said.

"History cannot be reviewed as we cannot change what had happened. It is better to tell the truth about the nation's past," he said adding that young Malaysians assumed the fight for independence was just another common fight that also took place in other countries.

He was commenting on a recent statement by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin that the history syllabus for schools would be revised following new findings of the nation's past.

Not wise to use ISA unless national security threatened, says Hisham

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 05:18 AM PDT

BAGAN DATOH: It is not appropriate to use the Internal Security Act (ISA) against a politician as long he does not threaten the national security, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

Nevertheless, he said a politician could be subjected to laws that could be determined by the Attorney-General.

"While awaiting a legal redress, it does not mean we cannot do anything sensible to correct the misconception," he told reporters after attending the Bagan Datoh parliamentary constituency Aidilfitri open house.

He was commenting PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu's remarks that that those who attacked the Bukit Kepong police station during the pre-independence communist insurgency and killed 25 people were the actual "freedom fighters".

Hishammuddin said ex-servicemen and ex-policemen associations had embarked on a campaign to rebut Mat Sabu's uncalled for remarks and enlighten the people on the atrocities afflicted by communist insurgents.

Hishammuddin, who is also Umno vice-president, brushed aside a statement by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang in a news portal that the controversy was exploited by Barisan Nasional to deviate the people's attention from a scam being planned before the next general election.

"It is unfair to blame the BN when the issue was raised by a PAS leader," he said, adding that let the judge the uproar over Mat Sabu's remarks as the opposition had the penchant for criticising the monarchy, police and armed forces to gain a political mileage. BERNAMA

Avoid conformity, Utar graduates told

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 04:19 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: To be successful in this world, break all the rules.

This was the message Star Publications Bhd executive deputy chairman Datuk Vincent Lee had for graduates of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman at their convocation.

"I am not asking you to break the law, but if you want to stand out, to be noticed, you must avoid 'conformity.'

"You must be brave enough to break the rules of engagement," he said when addressing one of the sessions at the convocation.

Lee also touched on his soon-to-be-released book "Why 'Stupid' People Get Richer."

He said that as the title suggested, "stupid" people get richer because "stupid" people "win" most of the time.

"Winning is NOT God's gift. It is not about luck as luck can only happen to you once or twice.

"In the real world, the journey is a marathon NOT a short sprint.

"It has nothing to do with your degrees. Nobody gives you money just by looking at your degrees. Neither does family fortune come into play," he said

Full text of the speech.

It gives me great pleasure to join all of you at this 13th convocation of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar).

I thank Utar for inviting me as the guest-of-honour for this session. I would like to congratulate the members of the class of 2011. You are the very reason for our presence here today.

I am honoured that you have chosen me to help celebrate your graduation today.

I would like to assume that I am here today NOT because of the fact that I am the executive deputy chairman of The Star or that I am the executive chairman of Naga DDB.

Rather, I would like to think that the real reason as to why I am here is because of my soon to be published book called "Why Stupid' People Get Richer."

You may think it's funny.

But in many ways, it's true when you come to think of it.

When I look around me now, I see a lot of successful people that were not perceived to be very clever while in school and yet at present they find themselves very rich. Ever wondered WHY "stupid" people get richer?

Simply put, they try harder! They never give up. They cross rivers when there is no bridge, they climb mountains when there are no ladders and they take flights when there is no wind.

So what do you fine students of 2011 need to hear from me?

As a branding and communications person, it would be fashionable to share a few of the latest methodologies or even marketing terminologies that would impress even the most astute of professors among us today.

In fact, it would be even more topical to share a few quotes from the various "gurus" of our time.

But to be perfectly honest, there really isn't much advice that I have to give you.

You are all smart. All educated. At the press of a button, you can now access information that we at our time took months if not years to learn.

This is the digital age, This is the age of speed and innovation. This is the age of creativity. Anybody with an idea can sell his idea to the world. The world now is borderless. It's a scary world out there, but I am not trying to frighten you.

On the contrary, I am here to inspire you to do the unthinkable. To win, to be the best in class no matter what field you choose to be in.

We live in a globalised age, and you know this world better than my generation ever did.

In many ways, it is I who need to learn from you.

What I can do, however, is to share with you what I have learnt - what I have discovered in this world.

This journey of discovery was not an easy one, especially when you are in the creative industry.

Most of the thoughts I am sharing with you today could be very applicable if you are to join this industry.

In the UK, the creative industry presently makes up more than half of the total economy.

The creative industry is not just about advertising but also consists of design, architecture, TV and radio, movies, product design, journalism, etc, just to name a few.

It is my hope that some of you will join this industry in the near future.

If you are to take away anything from what I said today, remember this: to be successful in this world, we simply need to break all the rules.

I am not asking you to break the law, but if you want to stand out, to be noticed, you must avoid "conformity" in the business world. You must be brave enough to break the rules of engagement.

In my world, so-called "winning formulas" are yesterday's news. As the saying goes, not only is yesterday's news OLD news, it is today's nasi lemak wrapper.

And as the title of my book suggests, "stupid" people get richer because "stupid" people "win" most of the time.

So as not to be too Machiavellian about things, winning is NOT God's gift. It is not about luck. As luck can only happen to you once or twice.

In the real world, the journey is a marathon NOT a short sprint.

It has nothing to do with your degrees. Nobody gives you money just by looking at your degrees. Neither does family fortune come into play.

Winning is a mentality.

"Stupid" people "win" most of the time not only because they try harder but also because they don't see any hurdles or choose to disregard any obstacles.

Have you ever seen an excitable dog jumping for a bone?

Sometimes, it jumps higher than it believes it can. Just like the dog, "stupid" people only see opportunities and pursue them relentlessly without fear or prejudice.

We all grow up with a fear of something or other.

For some, we are afraid of growing old. For many, we are afraid of failure. And the more competitive among us are just afraid that others will be more successful than we are.

I am sure that you would have heard at some point, a family member or a friend of a friend talk about that "stupid boy" at school who is now richer than them, and who is driving a faster car or living in a bigger house.

As we turn the page and embark on a new chapter in our lives, I believe that the answers to your life's concerns are in the following tenets:

#1. "Stupid" people don't follow formulas. Time and time again, we see street fighters defeat karate or kung fu masters in a brawl. Competitive economies require intuitive decisions to be made. "Smart" people think too much. Act too little. They suffer from what golfers call analysis-paralysis.

#2. Case studies are not to be followed. By the time the case studies are written and published, they are already outdated. We all know that success stories are post-analysed and post-rationalised to suit the strategies.

#3. To win, you need to be insightful and be led by blind faith. When successful, write a book (and claim it was foresight!)

#4. Never chase after money. Instead, chase after dreams! "Winners' are men and women who made the leap from facts into the realm of the imagination. Contrary to popular belief, money does not make money. Only having an idea of what to do with the money makes more money, just like how bankers make money from innovators.

#5. Speaking of chasing after money, choose to mix with people with ideas and not people with money. Rich people NEVER part with their money.

#6. When in pole position, act like a challenger. What it means is that when you are leading the pack, think you are number two. Keep running. When you are challenging, act big! Think and act like you are number one in the pack.

#7. The 51-49 rule. If you think the chances of success are no less than 51%, just do it. There are no fail safe ideas. It is better to learn to ride on three wheels than never be able to ride at all. Don't wait until the four wheels arrive and then only start moving. Take your risks now. As you get older, you will tend to be more fearful, and less flexible. The bottom line is you can't be afraid to fail.

This leads me to my final thoughts.

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.

And ALWAYS, be the dream.

I had always wished that for myself.

And now, as you graduate, and begin anew, I wish that of you.

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The Booker six

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:54 AM PDT

Will it be fourth time lucky for author Julian Barnes?

THE current odds-on favourite to win this year's Man Booker Prize made it onto the shortlist, announced on Tuesday, once again for his novella The Sense Of An Ending.

He is not the only previous nominee for the prize; Carol Birch, shortlisted for Jamrach's Menagerie, was also longlisted for her work in 2003.

Two of the four first-time authors from the longlist also survived the cut from 13 books to six. They are Stephen Kelman for Pigeon English, and A.D. Miller for Snowdrops.

Two Canadian writers – Patrick deWitt for The Sisters Brothers, and Esi Edugyan for Half Blood Blues – round out the rest of the list announced by Dame Stella Rimington, chair of the panel of judges, at a press conference in London.

Dame Stella commented: "Inevitably, it was hard to whittle down the longlist to six titles. We were sorry to lose some great books. But, when push came to shove, we quickly agreed that these six very different titles were the best."

Here's a brief introduction to the six shortlisted novels for the 2011 Man Booker Prize:

The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes (Publisher: Jonathan Cape/Random House) – Tony Webster has lived a quiet and rather dull life. Out of the blue, he receives a bequest and a note from ex-girlfriend Veronica's mother, saying that she has his ex-best friend Adrian Finn's diary.

The note triggers memories of his younger days when he and Finn first become friends, and a fateful weekend, which caused him to break up with Veronica.

When Adrian and Veronica start dating soon after, Tony angrily ends his friendship with Adrian, who eventually commits suicide. But as Tony tries to recollect the weekend that ended two relationships, he realises that his memories might not reflect what really happened.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Granta) – Notorious assassins Eli and Charlie Sisters are headed for California to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. On the way, the brothers have a series of unsettling and violent experiences in the Darwinian landscape of gold-rush America. Then they get to California, and discover that Warm is an inventor who has come up with a magical formula, which could make all of them very rich.

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Canongate Books) – Jaffy Brown is a young boy when he is knocked unconscious by a Bengal tiger in London's East End. He is saved by the tiger's owner, Charles Jamrach, importer and purveyor of wild and extraordinary animals, who offers him a job at the Menagerie. Soon, he is given the opportunity to take part in a voyage of a lifetime: a trip to hunt down and bring back a dragon.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent's Tail) – In 1940 Paris, 20-year-old black German citizen Hieronymous Falk, a rising jazz star, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. He discovers there's more to the journey than he thought when old friend Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero's fate was settled.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (Bloomsbury) – Newly arrived in London from Ghana with his mother and sister, 11-year-old Harrison Opoku lives the life of a new emigrant trying to settle into a new school, innocently unaware of the inner-city dangers around him. Equally fascinated by the local gang and the pigeon that visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England. But when a boy is murdered, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own – and in doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe.

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller (Atlantic) – Over the course of one Moscow winter, a young Englishman is seduced and drawn into the world of new Russia: a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness, magical dachas and debauched nightclubs; a place where secrets – and corpses – come to light only when the deep snows start to thaw.

The winner of the £50,000 (RM240,000) prize will be announced on Oct 18 in London. – Tan Shiow Chin

Drawn by good stories

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:53 AM PDT

I WAS delighted to come across Saplings, one of Noel Streatfeild's books for adult readers, in a bookstore in Kuala Lumpur recently. Streatfeild is, of course, the author of Ballet Shoes, the beloved and famous story of three orphans who are raised as sisters and attend a stage school in London during the Second World War.

I knew Streatfeild had written books for grown-ups but I had never read any as they are no longer in print, or so I believed. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I saw Saplings on display, re-issued by Persephone Book, an independent publisher (persephonebooks.co.uk) in Britain.

Like Ballet Shoes and several of Streatfeild's other children's books, Saplings is about a family of children and set during WWII. However, unlike her children's fiction, Saplings looks quite seriously at the emotional and psychological effects the war had on families, particularly their youngest members.

The story is told from the point of view of the four children and, if you've read the author's best children's books, you know she writes with an acute awareness of the way children feel. Therefore, although written for adults, I believe this book will also appeal to her younger fans.

If you are interested in reading Streatfeild's romance novels, another independent publisher, Greyladies (greyladiesbooks.co.uk), has published five titles that were written by Streatfeild under the pseudonym Susan Scarlett.

The books are Clothes-Pegs (set in a London fashion store), Peter And Paul (about glamorous twin sisters Petronella and Pauline), Pirouette (a ballerina is torn between the stage and the love of a good man), Love In A Mist (a little boy's role in a Hollywood film causes unrest among his family members) and Summer Pudding (love among the haystacks in wartime England).

It's interesting to see how the plots of these novels are echoed in Streatfeild's children's fiction – she wrote many books about children who train as actors and dancers, and fans will recall that The Painted Garden is about an English child who wins a part in a Hollywood movie.

Streafeild's love for beautiful clothes and her sensitivity to a child's need to be dressed well and in the right clothes, are also apparent, not only in books like Clothes-Pegs and Peter And Paul (the sisters work at a London boutique), but in how she described in great detail the outfits of the little girls and boys.

Who can forget, in Ballet Shoes, the family's consternation over Pauline's too-tight brown velvet dress, and their extreme pleasure when she attends her next audition in a new black velvet frock? Of course, Streatfeild also wrote a book called Party Frock.

I would dearly love to order all the books, but they cost £12 pounds each (RM57) at Greyladies. From October, Persephone Books will also start charging £12 for their books – until then, they are £10 pounds each (RM48). That doesn't include postage, though – which will be hefty if you use a Malaysian address.

If you're wondering why I'm plugging books for adults in this column, as I've said before, I think children and teenagers have a wider reading range than most adults.

Most avid readers will tell you that they devoured all kinds of books as children. They didn't care who the books were written for. They were just interested in good stories.

I read lots of very racy and violent books as a tween – my lovely liberal parents didn't mind at all – but if there any parents getting nervous reading this, let me assure you that the books published by Persephone Books and Greyladies are all most, most respectable.

Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to the above address and check out her blog at daphne.blogs.com/books.


Posted: 11 Sep 2011 06:52 AM PDT

FOR the week ending Sept 4, 2011:


1. A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs Of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

2. The Power Of X: Enter The 10 Gods by Joey Yap

3. Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

4. The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

5. No Excuses!: The Power Of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy

6. Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going by Han Fook Kwang, et al

7. The Laws Of Courage by Ryuho Okawa

8. A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard

9. The Twelfth Insight: The Hour Of Decision Reckoning by James Redfield

10. Unsinkable: How To Bounce Back Quickly When Life Knocks You Down by Sonia Ricotti


1. A Game Of Thrones (A Song Of Ice And Fire series) by George R.R. Martin

2. I Don't Know How She Does It (movie tie-in) by Allison Pearson

3. The Single Girl's To-Do List by Lindsey Kelk

4. Room by Emma Donoghue

5. Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett

6. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

7. Priceless by Nicole Richie

8. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

9. The Confession by John Grisham

10. Family Ties by Danielle Steel

n Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; mphonline.com.

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Let there be laughter

Posted: 11 Sep 2011 05:48 AM PDT

Not a time for jokes? On the contrary, in the right hands, comedy turns out to be a source of strength for those who lived through 9/11.

AFTER the traumatic events of 9/11 in 2001, Hollywood went through a phase when anything to do with terrorism, Islam or violence was frowned upon.

As for comedy... forget it. Even showing the twin towers was a big no-no.

Sam Raimi's first Spider-man movie had to pull its teaser trailer from cinemas because it showed a helicopter being caught in a spider web between the two towers. The poster was also recalled because it showed the towers reflected in Spidey's eyes.

In the years since the attack, big-budget explosions have made a comeback and there have been a lot more films about terrorism, but these tend to be documentaries or dramas like World Trade Center and United 93, and TV's 24 (Jack Bauer saves the world one day at a time!) and Rescue Me (about the lives of New York City firemen in the aftermath of 9/11).

Comedies that touch on the subject directly are still rare. However, there have been some notable examples of shows that went against the grain. One of the earliest and most direct responses to 9/11 on TV was by animated comedy South Park, which released an episode, called Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants, a mere two months after the event.

It was the first episode of South Park after 9/11, and saw Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny heading to Afghanistan to return a goat sent to them by Afghan versions of themselves. Inadvertently, they infiltrate Osama's lair and kill him. The episode was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding animated programme, believe it or not!

Never afraid of being controversial or stepping on other people's toes, the show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, then went on to release the hilarious puppet feature film Team America: World Police in 2004, which satirised America's foreign policy (at this point, the United States was knee-deep in the War on Terror, and embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Filmed using Thunderbirds-style marionettes (and a few real life pussycats), Team America left no stone unturned (or unsullied). It poked fun at almost everything, from pompous politicking Hollywood actors and big-budget action flicks (the team accidentally destroys the Eiffel Tower and Egypt's pyramids while fighting terrorists), to Kim Jong II, suicide bombers, the United Nations and, er, ... porn. The puppet sex scene has to be the strangest and most disturbing "sex scene" between inanimate objects ever committed to film.

Other than these two outright examples, there haven't been many comedies that actually touched on 9/11 or mentioned terrorism or Islam. Most either mentioned the attacks in a more solemn manner or avoided the subject all together.

The ones that did address it, tended to use the "Muslims are terrorists" stereotype for comedic purposes, as evident in the US version of British TV comedy The Office, which had an episode in which Steve Carell's character mistakes a Muslim employee for a terrorist. The Sarah Silverman Program also featured an episode in which she uses her car to run over men whom she mistakes for Osama.

One exception to the rule was the short-lived sitcom Aliens In America, which ran for one season in 2007-2008. The show revolved around an American family that decides to accept an international student to help boost the popularity of their teenage son. Expecting a good-looking European student, they instead get a 16-year-old Muslim from Pakistan.

For more examples of shows that further explore Islamic culture, you'd have to look outside America. For instance, Canadian sitcom Little Mosque On The Prairie, which has been on air since 2007, revolves around Amaar Rashid (Zaib Shaikh), a former lawyer who decides to take a job as imam of a mosque in a small town called Mercy. The show has been praised for putting the Muslim community in a positive light, and has even been optioned by a US TV network for an American version.

Across the pond, last year saw the release of Four Lions, a black comedy about four Muslim men from Sheffield, Britain, who decide to become suicide bombers. Directed by rookie Chris Morris, the movie has added poignancy because it was written about the same time as the July 7, 2005, London bus bombings that killed 52 people and injured more than 700 others.

Far from glamorising suicide bombers or coming up with bad, tasteless comedy, the movie won accolades for the way it explored the humanity of its lead characters while providing a more down-to-earth look at their motivations. Time magazine even named Four Lions in its list of top 10 movies for 2010.

For the most outright outrageous exploitation of the subject ever, however, one has to head further east to Bollywood where the comedy Tere Bin Laden was a hit in 2010. It stars Bollywood pop star Ali Zafar as a young reporter who is so desperate to emigrate to the United States that he comes up with a fake video featuring an Osama look-alike and tries to sell it to TV stations in hopes of raising money for his trip to America.

Despite the comedic premise, the film was praised for its smart satire and its depiction of a post-9/11 world.

Funny is funny

Post-9/11, comedy became an important tool for comedians of Arab-American descent – it was a way for them to break stereotypes by, well, talking about stereotypes. Two years after the attack, these comedians went around the country to share with average Americans how their world had also changed.

Dean Obeidallah, from New Jersey, is an American with a Palestinian father and Italian-American mother. He summed his experience up eloquently when he said: "I went to bed on Sept 10 white, and woke up on Sept 11 an Arab. And it's weird being an Arab in a different world – people say weird things to my face about my heritage ... like, 'Oh, you're Arab? But you look so nice' and 'Oh, you're Arab, what a coincidence. I love Indian food'."

In his early shows, Obeidallah cited many excessive exercises put into effect post-9/11 to point out just how ridiculous they were.

For example, the Patriot Act, which allowed the US government to invade the personal space of an individual and collect information about said individual – like finding out what books they are reading ("because President Bush is jealous," Obeidallah joked). Or the extra vigilance at the airports against anyone with a "suspicious" name at immigration checkpoints: "More people would rather fly with snakes on the plane than Middle-Easterners at this point."

In an interview with Time magazine in 2009, Obeidallah said: "I started to use comedy to talk about my world and how it had changed. People are at a comedy club to laugh, but at the same time we're trying to teach them something about who we are.

"In the beginning, it was 'We're not terrorists' jokes, making fun of racial profiling. Now it's evolved ... it's saying, really unapologetically, 'This is who we are, this is our culture', and having fun with it."

Now a CNN online columnist, Obeidallah co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival in November 2003, which has about 50 Arab-American comedians as members. In 2005 and 2007, he and fellow Arab-American comedians – Maz Jobrani, Aron Kader and Ahmed Ahmed – went on a comedy tour called Axis of Evil Comedy Tour around the United States and to a few Middle-Eastern countries like United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon.

His current project is a free comedy tour in Middle America entitled The Muslims Are Coming. He was quoted in levantinecenter.org (a website for an organisation that presents the arts and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa) that he would be "going to areas in the country ... where polls show Islamophobia is at its worst".

After 2001, Maz Jobrani and Ahmed Ahmed found themselves typecast as Middle-Eastern terrorists in Hollywood projects – in which their lines went something like "kill the infidels" in a mock-Arabic accent, and punctuating their sentences with "Habibi".

Fed up, Ahmed decided to take a break from acting and focus his energy on doing stand-up comedy. He also directed a touching and funny documentary entitled Just Like Us, which partly revolves around his parents (who emigrated from Egypt to the United States when he was very young) and partly on comedy tours to the Middle East.

According to Ahmed, his intent with the documentary was to show that Middle-Easterners and Americans laugh at the same jokes because comedy is universal.

"The media only shows one side of the story. Yes, there are Muslims who are bad people but that's a small group. How about the other people? You never see that," he argued.

Besides Arab-Americans, people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been championing the cause to right wrongs with political humour. Stewart, especially, brings all of his passions – for New York, politics, intelligent discussions and the biased content on the Fox News channel – to his show.

When the 9/11 First Responder Bill vote (meant to provide benefits for ailing Ground Zero rescuers) was held up by Republicans, Stewart ripped into them. He said: "The party that turned 9/11 into a catchphrase are now moving suspiciously into a convenient pre-9/11 mentality when it comes to this bill."

When the Senate okayed the tax cut extension for all Americans (including the wealthiest), Stewart sarcastically pointed out the obvious: "Yes, that is astoundingly good news for firefighters that make over US$200,000 (RM604,000) a year."

Apparently, before Stewart brought it up on his show, a lot of Americans did not even know about this issue because the mainstream media neglected to report it.

"There was one network that gave the 9/11 Responders Bill story the full 22 minutes of intense coverage it deserved. But that network, unfortunately, was Al Jazeera," said Stewart.

"(American) networks were scooped by the same network that Osama bin Laden sent his mixed tape to! This is insane!" he said.

Whether Stewart had an effect or not, the 9/11 Health Bill was signed early this year. Such is the power of humour.

Someone once said, truth goes down so much better when it's marinated with humour – that was definitely the case right after Sept 11, 2001. Although most people were understandably sombre, with no desire whatsoever to laugh, some wisely realised the recovery process required both a gargantuan amount of strength and the soft touch of humour, if anyone were ever to feel normal again.

On his first day back to do the show, Stewart made an emotional speech peppered with tears and words of hope. "They said to get back to work. There were no jobs available for a man in the fetal position under his desk crying, which I would've gladly taken. So I came back here," he said.

Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson dies

Posted: 10 Sep 2011 07:31 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Veteran actor Cliff Robertson, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a mentally disabled janitor in the movie "Charly," died Saturday, according to news reports.

Robertson, who was 88, died at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York from natural causes, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing family members.

The actor's official website carried the message "In loving memory" and noted the dates of his birth and death. A call to his publicist was not immediately returned.

Robertson's film career spanned more than 60 years. His last credited role was "Spider-Man 3" in 2007.

Brad Pitt aims for home run with "Moneyball"

Posted: 10 Sep 2011 06:16 PM PDT

TORONTO: Brad Pitt has turned to the insular world of baseball economics for his latest movie and yet the Hollywood heavyweight is a relative rookie in terms of obsessing over one of America's great pastimes.

The A-list actor is one of the top draws this week at the Toronto International Film Festival for the launch of his new drama, "Moneyball."

He plays Billy Beane, the real-life general manager of Major League Baseball's Oakland A's, who is famed for reinventing the game by running a competitive team in a cost-effective way.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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