Khamis, 15 September 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S.-Russian space trio safely lands in Kazakhstan

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 09:46 PM PDT

ALMATY (Reuters) - A Russian Soyuz space capsule with three astronauts on board landed in Kazakhstan on Friday, NASA television reported.

U.S. astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev, who had manned the International Space Station since April, landed at 1000 local time (0400 GMT).

(Reporting By Dmitry Solovyov)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

U.S. remains hopeful Iran will release hikers - Clinton

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 09:46 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The United States remains hopeful that Iran will release two U.S. hikers and is not unduly concerned by Tehran's delay in carrying out a pledge to free them earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.

"We continue to hope that the two young Americans will be released as part of a humanitarian gesture by the Iranian government," Clinton said at a news conference in San Francisco, where she was on an official visit.

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. Detained Americans Shane Bauer (L) and Joshua Fattal smile as they wait to meet their mothers at the Esteghlal hotel in Tehran, in this May 21, 2010 file picture. (REUTERS/PressTv/Files)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a U.S. television interviewer that Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal would be freed in coming days in a humanitarian gesture ahead of his trip to the United Nations in New York.

But Iran's judiciary on Wednesday said the release was not imminent.

Clinton said the United States had noted previous delays between official Iranian announcements and their eventual execution and had been assured by a number of sources both publicly and privately that the two men would be freed.

"I'm going to count on the Iranian government fulfilling the announcement that was made by the leadership of the country and hope that it can be expedited and we can see their release very soon," she said.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested in July 2009 near Iran's border with Iraq, where they say they were hiking in the mountains as tourists. They were with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was allowed to go home in September 2010 on $500,000 bail.

Their lawyer said on Tuesday the men, who were sentenced last month to eight years jail, would be released on $500,000 bail each. They share a cell in Tehran's Evin prison.

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied the two men were spies and the case has caused further tension between Tehran and Washington, which also says the Islamic state is trying to build nuclear bombs and has imposed sanctions on Iran.

Tehran denies this, saying its nuclear program is only aimed at generating power and has so far refused to halt its sensitive nuclear work.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart; writing by Andrew Quinn; editing by Bill Trott)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

EU seeks limited upgrade of Palestinians' U.N. status

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 09:46 PM PDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union hopes to persuade Palestinian leaders to drop plans for full United Nations membership this month in return for a nuanced upgrading of their U.N. observer status, EU diplomats said on Thursday.

Palestinian women wait to cross towards Jerusalem through Israel's Qalandiya checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Ramallah August 20, 2010. (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/Files)

The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, went to the Middle East this week to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians with the aim of reviving peace talks and averting a Palestinian statehood bid at the U.N. General Assembly, which begins its annual gathering on Sept. 21.

The United States has warned that such an attempt would damage chances of reviving talks and sent envoys to the region this week to lobby the Palestinians.

Israel has also said any such move would put an end to negotiations, which were frozen a year ago in a dispute over Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he would address the United Nations next week and urge the Palestinians to negotiate peace with Israel rather than pursue the bid for full U.N. membership for a Palestinian state.

Diplomats said Ashton was trying to negotiate a package that could include a statement by the Quartet of Middle East negotiators laying out guidelines for future talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

In Brussels, diplomats said her proposal included a text that would not rule out full U.N. membership for a Palestinian state in the future but focuses for now on a lesser upgrade of their status coupled with a specific mention of talks.

"Our idea is to push for an upgrade of the Palestinian status without excluding full status in the future but with a reference to negotiations," one senior EU diplomat said.

It was not immediately clear whether this would be an upgrading to the status of "non-member state" observer, as held by the Vatican, or some other formulation.

The Palestinian Authority now has the status of an observer "entity."

The United States and Israel object to "non-member state" status for the Palestinians because this would let them take cases to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Among ideas under discussion, diplomats said, was giving the Palestinians "non-member state" status while limiting their ability to launch such legal challenges. Another possibility would be to offer them lower status but to give them some nods in the direction of statehood, including possible direct access to World Bank funding.

In San Francisco U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday there was a "growing recognition" on the part of Israel and the Palestinians that the issues had to be settled in peace talks and that they "will not be resolved if some other route is taken at the United Nations."

The U.S. Congress has threatened to cut the roughly $500 million in annual U.S. aid to the Palestinians, but Israel on Thursday urged the international community to maintain assistance.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed on Wednesday "no retreat" from the plans to request full U.N. membership in the absence of talks with Israel.

In Ramallah, Abbas met U.S. Middle East envoy David Hale and senior White House official Dennis Ross, who are also in the region in an attempt to dissuade him from pursuing the U.N. path. But the meeting did not appear to make any progress towards resolving differences.

"The president informed the American delegation about the latest developments concerning going to United Nations to obtain full membership for the state of Palestine," the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.


At the United Nations, Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour told reporters the Palestinians were still "fine-tuning our options" on what to do next week.

"The final decision will be taken in the next few days as to which path we would follow, whether it is through the Security Council for full membership or whether through the General Assembly" for a lesser upgrade of status, he said.

Ashton has played an increasingly active role in the Quartet, which groups the EU, the United States, Russia and the United Nations, since becoming foreign policy chief in December 2009. But her efforts have been complicated by internal divisions in Europe over the Palestinian statehood bid.

Should Palestinian statehood be brought to a vote in the United Nations, the EU's 27 member states could split into three camps, with some opposing the bid, others backing it and several abstaining.

France, in particular, appears to be more receptive to the Palestinian arguments. Germany opposes unilateral declarations without a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

To succeed, Ashton would have to persuade U.S. diplomats to get on board. Washington has said if the Palestinians ignore entreaties and seek full membership status, it will use its veto in the U.N. Security Council.

In Jerusalem, a Netanyahu aide said the Israeli leader did not rule out talks with Abbas even if the Palestinian president presented the U.N. membership request as planned on Sept. 23.

The aide noted the General Assembly probably would not vote on such a membership upgrade resolution until early October, keeping the door open for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas.

Also on Thursday, a Palestinian official said an escalation in Jewish settler attacks on Palestinian villages in the Israeli-occupied West Bank risked triggering retaliation.

Palestinians fear more trouble in the days leading up to Sept. 23, when Abbas plans to take the step which amounts to an attempt to gain U.N. recognition of a state on land occupied by Israel in a 1967 war and to which many settlers stake a biblical claim.

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Tom Perry in Ramallah, Arshad Mohammed in San Francisco and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations; editing by Luke Baker, John O'Callaghan, and Jackie Frank)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Stay tuned, stay fit

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 12:13 AM PDT

Purring good show

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 12:09 AM PDT


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Singapore Aug non-oil exports beat forecasts

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 07:09 PM PDT

SINGAPORE, Sept 16 (Reuters) Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rose a better-than-expected 5.1 percent in August from a year ago as higher shipments of vessels, optical apparatus and disk media offset a contraction in electronics.

International Enterprises Singapore (IE Singapore), the country's trade agency, released August non-oil domestic export (NODX) data on Friday

The city-state's key exports rose a seasonally adjusted 8.3 percent from July on a month-on-month basis.

Economists had predicted Singapore's non-oil domestic exports would edge up 0.5 percent month-month and fall 6.4 percent from a year ago.

KEY POINTS (Percentage change, year on year):

Month Aug Jul Jun May Apr Mar

NODX 5.1 2.8 1.0 7.1 2.0 9.9

Electronics 19.4 16.9 17.2 15.2 10.5 13.8

Pharma 7.1 48.5 1.1 61.8 48.6 4.4 COMMENTARY:


"I think many would discount (Singapore's) August exports as monthtomonth moves. If you look at global PMIs, especially the new orders component, orders have dropped. Most other trends also point to the downside."

"If you put aside vessels, electronics is contracting and is going to contract throughout the year."

"There is a growing chance MAS would reduce the slope (of Sing dollar appreciation) to more normal levels. It's 34 percent now but there's a growing possibility that might be pushed back to 2 percent (annual appreciation)."


"The betterthanexpected figures are coming from a few factors, not just pharmaceuticals rebounding (month-on-month), there were also some lumpy deliveries of oil rigs."

"Electronics performed betterthanexpected, in line with a slight resurgence of U.S. demand, due to the August backtoschool demand."

"The underlying trend is one of gradual pickup going into August. We're seeing the seasonal lift we always get this time of the year as we head into the Christmas season."

"There' re some positive catalysts like the launch of the iPhone 5, which is scheduled for October. Mass production has started this week, so that will lift electronics."

"However, recovery in electronics will not go into high gear given that we're seeing softer demand in the U.S. this time."

"Singapore will probably escape a technical recession in Q3. But given that underlying momentum is slowing, we're still calling for MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) to ease on its tightening bias in October."


"This certainly is a surprise on the upside trend, beating perhaps the most optimistic forecast out there. So this will essentially reduce the chance of technical recession in Singapore."

"Our central view is MAS will maintain the current policy stance although the downside risk to growth remains. Given the uncertainties in the developed economies, the chance of MAS loosening monetary policy should not be discounted as well."


The Singapore dollar was trading at 1.2435 against the U.S. dollar at 0038 GMT versus 1.2449 before the announcement at 0030 GMT.


To view the full tables, please go to the website of the government's IE Singapore at

Asian stocks up in early trade Friday

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 06:55 PM PDT

SINGAPORE, Sept 16 (Reuters) Asian stocks posted early gains on Friday, as the relatively stable euro ahead of a European finance ministers meeting reflected hopes for a big policy move to fight a debt crisis.

(Markets in Malaysia were closed Friday for Malaysia Day holiday)

Coordinated action by major central banks around the world to ensure European banks have access to dollar funding, at a time when some institutions have been shut out of shortterm lending markets, has raised speculation that policymakers may be ready to take more steps to hold the euro zone together.

Weakness in Asian currencies as foreign investors kept taking profits on their regional bets and thin equity volumes, however, suggest investors remain sceptical the crisis can be solved with band aid efforts, such as providing emergency funds so banks can get through the year.

"Obviously it's not a longterm solution, we need to see some resolution to the sovereign debt issue to give market confidence we'll have stronger growth over the mediumterm," said Spiros Papadopoulos, a senior market economist at National Australia Bank.

"Certainly these policy measures will help improve confidence in the shortterm," he added.

Japan's Nikkei was up 1.8 percent, climbing above a steep trendline formed off intraday highs in August and September.

The rally may fizzle though ahead of a three-day weekend in Japan that may prompt some players to take profits, Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo, said.

"The market will likely be stronger in morning trade, and it may shed gains in the afternoon as investors remain cautious before the euro zone ministers' meeting on Friday and Saturday," he said.

The benchmark MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan rose more than 2 percent , with gains mostly spread between technology and commodityrelated shares.

The index has rebounded more than 4 percent from a 14month low hit on Wednesday.

This week has seen hedge funds of all stripes and mutual funds selling Asian currencies at a rapid pace and the move continued on Friday in spite of the stable euro.

The euro slipped 0.2 percent to $1.3850 though was actually up 1.9 percent on the week, with the swift move up through $1.3750 making traders nervous about opening bets against the currency ahead of the ECOFIN meeting and with the next Federal Reserve meeting on Sept 2021.

The weakness in Asian currencies has spilled over to the Australian dollar because of the antipodean currency's use as a play on investor risktaking.

The Australian dollar was down 0.2 percent to $1.0300 and has fallen 1.2 percent this week.

Spot gold prices slid 0.5 percent to $1,779.79 an ounce, on course for the biggest weekly decline since May.

The combination of resilient equities, a rebound in the euro and a bearish doubletop chart pattern in gold have combined to cast a shadow on the haven asset.

- Taiwan stocks rose 1.47 percent on Friday, tracking regional bourses higher and with tech and financial heavyweights in the lead, as top central banks' coordinated action eased fears about the euro zone's debt crisis.

The main TAIEX index was up 108.61 points at 7,494.29 at the opening bell, after a 2.17 percent rally in previous session.

Banking and electronics shares jumped 2.97 percent and 1.59 percent, respectively.

The Taiwan dollar gained by T$0.056 to T$29.579.

- South Korea's main KOSPI share index was up 2.21 percent at 1813.22 points as of 0046 GMT.

The index opened up 2.56 percent.

The junior Kosdaq market rose 1.48 percent at 461.70 points.

- Australian stocks pushed 2.1 percent higher in morning trade on Friday as coordinated central bank action worked to allay investors fears and prevent money markets freezing up in the wake of Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

The market also found support from overseas action as U.S. stocks rose for the fourth straight day, with banks outperforming other sectors, while Tokyo shares were also up nearly 2 percent.

Yet, even with gains made over the last several days the benchmark is on track for a second week of losses with a decline of 1.2 percent.

"It's a very, very impressive start (for the day), I think this is about the third day in a row that we've looked pretty flash and we are continuing on the coat tails of what's going on in Europe, as we slavishly do," said Michael Heffernan, Strategist Austock Group

"It's like trying to split hairs about which sectors are doing the best, because they are all doing well," he added

Australia's top four banks followed overnight leads from the U.S., with Westpac up 3.3 percent to A$20.03 at 0130 GMT

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index jumped 85.2 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,158.1 by 0130 GMT.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.7 percent to 3,294.4 in morning trade.

Sundance Resources rose 5.8 percent in early trade to A$0.46 after media reports that China's Hanlong Mining will continue with its A$1.3 billion bid, despite an investigation by the market regulator ASIC into alleged insider trading by Hanlong executives.

Uranium producer Paladin Energy Ltd stocks gained 5.4 percent to A$1.65 at 0132 GMT after announcing production had restarted at its Kayelekera mine in Malawi as scheduled following upgrade work.

Steelmaker OneSteel rose 6.4 percent.

Perodua to double exports

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 06:49 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) is looking at a 100% year-on-year jump in car exports this year due to strong demand for its Myvi and Viva models.

Managing director Datuk Aminar Rashid Salleh said the company would export 8,000 units this year compared with 4,000 in 2010.

The Viva is expected to account for 52% of Perodua's total exports this year.

"Our biggest export market is Sri Lanka, followed by Indonesia and the United Kingdom," Aminar said yesterday after launching the new 1.5-litre Myvi variants.

Perodua expects to export 4,000 units to Sri Lanka and 3,000 to Indonesia this year.

Aminar said exports to the United Kingdom would amount to between 600 and 700 units.

"The remainder would go to markets such as Singapore, Mauritius, Fiji and Brunei," he added.

The 1.3-litre Myvi, launched in mid-June, would be exported to Mauritius and Sri Lanka in October and November respectively.

He reiterated that Perodua was on track to achieve exports of at least 20,000 units, in line with the company's five-year roadmap, by 2015 or 2016.

Meanwhile, the new 1.5-litre Myvi variants are priced from RM50,900 to RM61,700.

"With the new 1.5-litre variants, we believe we can increase Myvi sales from about 8,000 units each month to between 9,000 and 9,500 units.

"The 1.5-litre variants should account for 45% to 50% of Myvi sales each month," Aminar said.

To date, about 2,000 bookings have been received for the 1.5-litre Myvi variants. About 80% of the bookings are for the SE model and the balance for the higher-priced Extreme model.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Results worldwide

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 03:48 PM PDT


Quebec City Challenge

Second round: Michaella Krajicek (Hol) bt Julie Coin (Fra) 7-5, 4-6, 6-1; Tamira Paszek (Aut) bt Varvara Lepchenko (US) 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); Rebecca Marino (Can) bt Aleksandra Wozniak (Can) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; Heather Watson (Bri) bt Sofia Arvidsson (Swe) 7-5, 6-3.

Tashkent Open

Second round: Ksenia Pervak (Rus) bt Sabina Sharipova (Uzb) 6-3, 6-3; Alla Kudryavtseva (Rus) bt Vitalia Diatchenko (Rus) 6-1, 2-6, 6-3; Valeria Savinykh (Rus) bt Anastasija Sevastova (Lat) 7-5, 3-6, 6-3; Eleni Daniilidou (Gre) bt Misaki Doi (Jpn) 7-6 (7-5), 6-4; Sorana Cirstea (Rom) bt Aleksandra Krunic (Srb) 6-3, 6-4; Urszula Radwanska (Pol) bt Akgul Amanmuradova (Uzb) 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-3; Eva Birnerova (Cze) bt Evgeniya Rodina (Rus) 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-1; Victoria Larriere (Fra) bt Magdalena Rybarikova (Svk) 6-4, 6-4.

Malaysian sinks birdie in playoff to lift junior crown

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 03:44 PM PDT

SUBANG: Malaysia's Mohd Azry Asyraf Noor Azam kept his cool to sink a birdie on the second playoff hole to clinch victory over Low Khai Jei in the boys' overall category of the 100Plus Malaysian Junior Open at the Saujana Golf and Country Club yesterday.

Both golfers had completed the three rounds with identical four-over 220 totals.

A tiring Jeremiah Kim, who led for the first two days, suffered cramps on the 13th hole and ended up sharing third place with Indonesia's Joshua Andrew Wirawan on six-over 222.

Dottie Ardina of the Philippines won the girls' overall category, ahead of India's Aditi Ashok. Malaysia's Loy Hee Ying shared third spot with another Filipina, defending champion Sarah Ababa, with a three-day total of 11-over 227.

Dottie blew up with a poor nine-over 81 yesterday but she had done enough over the first two days for a three-day total of 220 – and win the title by four strokes.

Her five-under 67 on the opening day meant that she was the only girl to have scored under par at the tough Palm Course.

Aditi, who scored one of two eagles in the tournament, finished with an eight-over 224.

Sarah and Hee Ying shot identical 78s to finish joint third.

Azry was surprised with his win but "I did feel I could shoot a good score going into the final round".

"I didn't expect to win this tournament but felt good coming into the final round," said Azry, who also won the Perak Amateur Open this year. It was close and I thank God for the victory," he said.

A disappointed Khai Jei, who won the Lion City Cup individual title in Hong Kong last week, said: "I nearly won it on the first play-off hole but the ball lipped out. I gave it my best but Azry played well today."

Dottie, meanwhile, said the victory would spur her on for November's SEA Games.

"This tournament is part of my preparations for the SEA Games and winning it has certainly boosted my confidence," said the 17-year-old, who finished fourth in the Laos SEA Games two years ago.

There was heartbreak for Malaysia after Isza Fariza Ismail was disqualified from the rain-interrupted tournament for signing on a wrong second-round scorecard.

The 17-year-old had shot a six-over 78 in the second round but signed for a 76 after completing her round early this morning.

Malaysia would have finished second on 18-over 306 as Jeremiah had a score of three-over 147 after two rounds.

Unlike the individual events, which are contested over 54 holes, the team championship is decided over two rounds.

"I'm disappointed. I know I shot a 78. I don't want to say anything now," said Isza, who was close to tears after realising that she could miss out on a ticket to the Indonesia SEA Games in November.

(Malaysian unless stated)



220: Low Khai Jei 76-72,-72, Mohd Azry Asyraf Noor Azam 72-74-74 (Azry won after scoring a birdie on the second playoff hole); 222: Joshua Andrew Wirawan (Ina) 72-77-73, Jeremiah Kim 69-78-75; 223: Paul San 81-70-72.


222: Jeremiah Kim 69-78-75; 227: Trishul Chinappa (Ind) 77-76-74; 228: Kow Eiki (Ina) 75-76-77.


220: Low Khai Jei 76-72,-72, Mohd Azry Asyraf Noor Azam 72-74-74 (Azry won after scoring a birdie on the second playoff hole); 222: Joshua Andrew Wirawan (Ina) 72-77-73; 223: Paul San 81-70-72.


231: Albright Chong 74-77-80; 234: Ervin Chang 79-72-83; 239: Jordan Jude Tay 83-82-74.



220: Dottie Ardina (Phi) 67-72-81; 224: Aditi Ashok (Ind) 73-75-76;

227: Sarah Ababa (Phi) 76-73-78, Loy Hee Ying 75-74-78.


220: Dottie Ardina (Phi) 67-72-81; 227: Sarah Ababa (Phi) 76-73-78; 240: Sheryl Villvencio (Phi) 67-72-81.


229: Nur Durriyah Damian 72-76-81; 235: Sarfina Vinota Seretharan 75-79-81; 244: Genevieve Ling 79-85-80.


224: Aditi Ashok (Ind) 73-75-76; 227: Loy Hee Ying 75-74-78; 233: Xhung Tingtu (Tai) 79-75-79.


301: India (Trishul Chinappa 77-76, Aditi Ashok 73-75); 318: Indonesia (Kow Eiki 75-76, Putri Aisyah Aman 83-84); 332: Taiwan (Min Suhuang 85-85, Tzu Hanchen 81-81).

Soon Hock aims to take new partnership to greater heights

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 03:43 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A new partner, a new mission and a chance to play in the Indonesia SEA Games next month.

These are the factors that have put the drive back into shuttler Ong Soon Hock as he strives to put his past failures behind and move forward and come good.

Just a month ago, the 26-year-old Soon Hock was on the verge of quitting the game after his partner, Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari, told him of his desire to leave the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) set-up.

Then, his decision to partner with youngster Mak Hee Chun in the Vietnam Open last month changed everything.

The duo upset top seeds Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hiarata of Japan en route to reaching the semi-finals.

Now, a refreshed Soon Hock is determined to guide Hee Chun to win a medal in his debut at the SEA Games.

"I thought of leaving BAM as I felt like I was at the tailend of my career. There was no motivation and nothing to look forward too – especially when I found out about Fairuzizuan's plan to leave," said Soon Hock.

"But all the negative feeling and uncertainty changed after Mak and I beat the Japanese pair at the Vietnam Open. That was the same pair Fairuzizuan and I lost to in the Malaysian Open in January. This breakthrough boosted my self-confidence. I felt young, good and more motivated to prove myself again

"And when the coaches decided to team me up with Mak for good, I decided to give it another try."

Soon Hock-Hee Chun's main targets are to make the team for next year's Thomas Cup Finals and improve on their world rankings during the on-going one-year Olympic qualifying period.

With doubles chief coach Tan Kim Her dropping Hoon Thien How from the SEA Games squad yesterday, Soon Hock-Hee Chun and Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem have confirmed their places in the men's doubles individual event.

Soon Hock is now one of the most senior shuttlers in the men's doubles team together with Koo Kien Keat following the departures of Faurizuzian and Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif.

And he hopes to use all the experience he has gained from his 11 years of playing to lead Hee Chun to greater heights.

"Mak is young and needs guidance. As a senior, I am able to do that. He is as committed as I am. We believe in each other and, with good communication, we can take this partnership to greater heights," said Soon Hock.

"We have been selected for the SEA Games. This will be my first SEA Games in 11 years with BAM. My goal is to win a medal for the country."

Soon Hock said that his marriage to former national gymnast Yap Yee Yin in February had also made him a more mature and responsible person.

"Marriage has taught me to be more responsible. As a player, I used to hang out after training and used to get up late for training. Now, I am more disciplined and committed. I am also able to manage my time better," he said.

"I have not done too well in the past because of my own doings.

"Now, everything has changed. I am clear about the direction that I want to go and the work that I need to put in to achieve good results. I even feel good going for training now.


Men's singles: Lin Dan (Chn) bt Mohd Hafiz Hashim (Mas) 14-21, 21-18, 21-9; Chen Long (Chn) bt Hsueh Hsuan-yi (Tpe) 21-16, 21-12; Lee Hyun-il (Kor) bt Chan Yan Kit (Hkg) 21-6, 21-17; Peter-Gade Christensen (Den) bt P. Kashyap (Ind) 21-18, 21-15; ;

Chen Jin (Chn) bt Zhou Wenlong (Chn) 21-15, 21-13; Sho Sasaki (Jpn) bt Kazushi Yamada (Jpn) 21-13, 21-16; Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) bt Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Tha) 13-21, 21-18, 21-18; Du Pengyu (Chn) bt Wang Zhengming (Chn) 21-11, 21-17.

Men's doubles: Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (Chn) bt Kim Ki-jung-Shin Baek-cheol (Kor) 15-21, 21-19, 21-19; Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den) bt Cho Gun-woo-Kwon Yi-goo (Kor) 21-15, 26-24; Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Mas) bt Chen Hung-ling-Lin Yu-lang (Tpe) 21-14, 9-21, 21-17; Hong Wei-Shen Ye (Chn) bt Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan (Ina) 19-21, 21-16, 21-11; Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong (Kor) bt Rupesh Kumar-Sanave Thomas (Ind) 21-13, 21-9; Mohd Ahsan-Bona Septano-Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa (Jpn) 21-16, 21-18; Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae (Kor) bt Tao Jiaming-Zhang Nan (Chn) 21-13, 21-8; Chris Adcock-Andrew Ellis (Eng) bt Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata (Jpn) 22-20, 21-8.

Other results involving Malaysians

Women's doubles: Cheng Shu-Pan Pan (Chn) bt Ng Hui Lin-Ng Hui Ern 21-10, 21-16; Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (Chn) bt Sabrina Chong Sook Ling-Goh Liu Ying 21-17, 21-9; Cheng Wen-hsing-Chien Yu-chin (Tpe) bt Vivian Hoo-Woon Khe Wei 21-16, 21-15.

Mixed doubles: Yoo Yeon-seong-Jang Ye-na (Kor) bt Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying 16-21, 21-10, 22-20.


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PM announces repeal of ISA, three Emergency proclamations

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 08:19 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Several draconian laws including the ISA and the three Emergency proclamations are to be repealed under major civil liberty reforms announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Thursday.

The historic changes, he stressed, were to accommodate and realise a mature, modern and functioning democracy; to preserve public order; enhance civil liberty and maintain racial harmony.

The changes, which represent the biggest shake-up of the Malaysian system since independence from Britain in 1957, were announced by the Prime Minister in a prime-time television address on the eve of celebrations marking the anniversary of the foundation of modern Malaysia.

The reforms include:

*Total repeal of the Internal Security Act

The legislation, introduced in 1960 in the wake of an armed insurgency by Communist rebels, gives the police wide-ranging powers to detain suspects indefinitely.

It will be replaced by a new law that incorporates far more judicial oversight and limits the powers of the police to detain suspect for preventive reasons.

37 people are currently being held under the ISA. There will be a six-month transition period while the new laws are introduced, after which their cases will be considered under the new legislation.

*Total repeal of the Emergency Ordinance

Introduced following race riots in 1969, the Emergency Ordinance, which allows suspects to be detained without charge for up to two years if permission is granted by a Minister.

This too will be replaced by a law that will not compromise on national security and terrorism while increasing democratic accountability and judicial oversight.

*Removal of annual renewal of press and publication permits

All licences will now remain valid indefinitely unless they are revoked, in common with broadcasting regulations in many Western nations.

*Government to review Section 27 of the Police Act 1967

The Malaysian constitution guarantees the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The law requires police permission before gatherings can go ahead, including on private land such as stadiums. This law will now be reviewed to bring Malaysia in line with international standards while ensuring that the police retain the power to prevent violent scenes on the nation's streets.

A host of other laws, including those governing banishment and residence, will also be abolished or reviewed. Any law found to be no longer relevant or justifiable will be repealed.

Full text of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's speech.

My beloved Malaysians,

1.Praise be to God, with His permission and kindness, we are able to observe the 48th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia as an independent, sovereign, democratic, peaceful and prosperous nation.

2. The story of Malaysia is colourful indeed. We have evolved from a low-income agricultural country at birth into a moderately high-income modern industrialised nation today, as a result of systematic planning and sustainable implementation. Although our success has been monumental and most significant, it does not give us any reason to stop trying, feel satisfied and comfortable or take it easy.

3. For the continued survival and prosperity of the people in the highly competitive world of today, let us redouble our efforts to improve the national competitiveness through creativity and innovation and by stretching our resources in creating new wealth based on independent entrepreneurship. It may not be able to realise all these objectives without national unity, peace, stability and harmony.

My beloved Malaysians,

4. Reflecting on history, when the country achieved independence 54 years ago and became Malaysia six years thence with Sabah and Sarawak, many local people and foreign observers questioned whether a new nation, with half the population living below the poverty line, having a demographic diversity of unusual complexity, separated by the South China Sea and threatened with a communist uprising, could remain intact as a nation state, let alone be successful.

5. Evidently, Malaysia's achievements thus far, garnered through trial and error, were destined to be full of challenges. Looking at history, like a miracle in the early age of a newly independent nation, the challenges became all the more acute with the early adoption of a system and philosophy of national administration based on parliamentary democracy, constitutional monarchy and a federation when the acculturation process had yet to mature.

6. Prior to independence, the people of the 13 states which came together to form Malaysia never had the opportunity to choose a ruling government or even the pattern of its administration. Their existence was merely as citizens of colonial states accorded limited political privileges at the discretion of the administrators. Certainly, this is not a genuine political right arising from the citizenship of an independent and sovereign state.

7. Before independence, the people were given limited opportunity to choose their representatives, first in the municipal elections of 1952 and then in the election of some members of the federal legislative council in 1955. It was only after 1959, following independence, that the people began to be given the full right and responsibility to elect all members of the Dewan Rakyat and state legislative assemblies with the absolute discretion in determining the party that would form the government.

My beloved Malaysians,

8. Of course, we should be thankful because, from time to time, we were able to overcome every internal and external impediment which threatened democracy and personal freedom, such as the communist uprising, confrontation against the formation of Malaysia, racial riots, economic recession, religious extremism or racial chauvinism through prudent, democratic action based on the principles of supremacy of the constitution and rule of law.

9. It should also be remembered that during that period it never at all occurred to the government to switch the existing system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy to any anti-democratic system, no matter how tough the challenges faced. As recorded in the chronology of the country, owing to the May 13 tragedy, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister then in accordance with Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, declared an emergency.

10. One of the effects arising from the declaration of the 1969 emergency was that the uncompleted election process in Sabah and Sarawak was suspended. The subsequent development was that the Dewan Rakyat elections were carried out within a period of approximately 20 months later and the system of Parliamentary Democracy was revived when the country was stable again.

11. Nevertheless, the late Tun Abdul Razak, as the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister then, who was entrusted to head the National Operations Council or MAGERAN, with absolute executive and legislative powers, never had the intention to retain the power longer than necessary.

12. It was abundantly clear that the late Tun together with his colleagues then were fully aware that the limitless extraordinary powers that they held could not be made a habitude for the sake of our beloved country's future. Instead, they appreciated that the absolute power was merely a trust to curb and prevent any tragedy and chaos.

My beloved Malaysians,

13. In fact, as a country that practices parliamentary democracy, the power to determine which political party would form the government, whether at the federal or state level, lies absolutely and without exception in the hands of the people. After more than 50 years of independence and almost five decades of Malaysia's formation, we find that the experience, maturity and wisdom of the people in the country in choosing a government that could ensure that the future they aspired for could not be denied by anyone else.

14. In fact, I have often pointed out that the era where the government knew everything and owned a monopoly on wisdom has long gone. The revolution in the fields of information technology, development in communication and sophistication in transportation had opened up competition as well as a wide and dynamic comparison in the ideas market.

15. Currently, public access to all levels of education is expanding in line with the corpus of knowledge that they possess. At the same time, sustainable economic growth, the reduction in the poverty rate and the social engineering initiatives and their effectiveness, have succeeded in raising the standard of living and created a significant middle class. Now, the preference and requirements of Malaysians have undergone massive changes compared to four or five decades ago.

16. Moving further ahead, administering a nation that emerged from the independence driven by the wishes of the people, the government is now committed towards upholding the system of Parliamentary Democracy, Constitutional Monarchy, rule of law, the federation philosophy and principles of checks and balances between the three branches of the government.

My beloved Malaysians,

17. As many of you know, except for the emergency resulting from the (Indonesian) Confrontation of 1964 which has been implicitly revoked, all proclamations of emergency before this are still in force. Hence, realising the changing realities, taking the pulse of the nation and feeling the restlessness of the people aspiring for a more open Malaysia with a dynamic democracy where the views, ideas and concerns of the masses are given greater attention so that our system would be comparable to the other democracies of the world that are based on the philosophy "of the people, by the people, and for the people", the government will present a motion, under Clause 3 Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, to the two houses of Parliament for the three proclamations of emergency to cease being in force. It is time for Malaysia to forge ahead with a new paradigm based on new hope and not be constrained by nostalgia for the past.

18. In our nation building, while facing extraordinary circumstances threatening the security of the country and the well-being of the people, sometimes measures outside the norms of democracy had been called for. For example, preventive detention. Prudence in handling terrorism calls for preventive measures to protect innocent lives and property. This is a universally accepted truth.

19. From an Islamic perspective, this (preventive principle) is contained in the Syariah law aimed at protecting religion, lives, minds, ancestry and dignity, and property. The discipline of Syariah methodology deals at length with the need to prevent evil. One principle states that the ruler was entrusted to make a decision for the good of the many.

20. This is not anything strange, unusual or isolated. Advanced democratic nations like the United States and United Kingdom had formulated special legislation to handle terrorism after the September 11 tragedy.

21. The checks and balances that must exist in a modern democracy are between national security and personal freedom. Finding the right balance is the duty and responsibility of a government whose highest objective is the wellbeing of the people.

22. For example, the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Federal Constitution does not mean a right to slander and stoke the fires of hate. The government is also responsible, to take another example, of preventing anyone in a packed stadium raising a false alarm of a bomb. An out-of-control freedom like this will cause panic leading to injury and loss of lives. My beloved Malaysians,

23. I promised in the maiden speech I made when I took over as the country's Prime Minister on April 3, 2009, that the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960 will be reviewed comprehensively. As such, I would like to announce on this historic night that the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960 will be abolished.

24. As a means of preventing subversive activities, organised terrorism and crime to maintain peace and public order, two new pieces of legislation will be formulated under Article 149 of the Federal Constitution. Basically, these laws will be aimed at maintaining peace and wellbeing.

25. Above all, the government will ensure that the rights of those involved will be safeguarded. Legislation formulated will take into consideration fundamental rights and freedom based on the Federal Constitution. The new laws will provide for a substantially shorter duration of police custody and further detention can only be made with a court order, except laws pertaining to terrorism which will remain under the jurisdiction of the minister.

26. On the other hand, the government also gives its commitment that no individual will be arrested merely on the point of political ideology. In general, the power to extend the detention period will shift from the executive to judiciary, except for the laws pertaining to terrorism.

27. In this context, besides abolishing the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, the government will also abolish the Banishment Act 1959 and review several other laws to ensure that they meet current requirements. Hence, we will not hesitate to amend or abolish laws that are no longer relevant.

28. The comprehensive review will involve the Restricted Residence Act 1933 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 where the annual renewal principle will be abolished and replaced with the issuance of a licence until and unless revoked. The government will also review Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 by taking into consideration the provision under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution on freedom of assembly, but with a principle that is strongly against street demonstration. Nevertheless, the approval to assemble will be given in accordance with methods that will be outlined later and after taking into consideration international norms.

My beloved Malaysians,

29. As a country, Malaysia and its citizens are at a crossroads. The choice we make today will determine the fate and the future facade of Malaysia, the motherland which we will pass on to our children and the generations to come. The question is, can we rise beyond, and challenge, conventional wisdom that we as plural Malaysians, with varying economic status and political ideologies, can come to a consensus to not to bow and give in to the ember of hatred and suspicions, which will surely drag us to the valley of disgrace. On the other hand, come and let us power a future that is filled with hope and dignity.

30. Let us have faith, that it is a strength and not a weakness to put our trust in the wisdoms of Malaysians in determining our future. If we take this as a mistake, what then is the meaning of our achievement today, what is the use of planning the country's development in a structured way since merdeka, what is the use of spending most of the country's resources each year to give access to quality education to the people, to free the people from the clasp of poverty, to build physical infrastructure and world-class information communication technology?

31. The answer is clear, that is, the measures which I have just announced are a precursor to an orderly and prudent political transformation. This is an important and necessary complement to the initiatives in the economic field and public delivery which the government has formulated and implemented since more than two years back in the effort to move towards becoming a modern and progressive nation.

32. What is certain is that time is not too early neither it is too late; this is the most opportune time for us to make and implement these major changes. We are absolutely aware that, although some my think it is risky, we are doing this for our survival after 50 years of independence, after nearly five decades of Malaysia's nationhood. We are indeed galloping forth towards our destination to become a full-fledged developed nation.

My beloved Malaysians,

33. Finally, I would like to stress in no uncertain term that Malaysia which we dream of and one that we are currently building, is Malaysia which practices functional and inclusive democracy, where peace and public order are safeguarded in line with the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law and respect for basic human rights and individual rights.

For Malaysia, let's do our best and leave the rest to God. Wabillahitaufik Walhidayah Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh. Thank you.

Muhyiddin launches phase one of Pagoh education hub

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 04:28 AM PDT

MUAR: The first phase of the Pagoh Education Hub, launched by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin Thursday, is capable of accommodating 14,000 students.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Education Hub, Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, said the development of the first phase would involve four local public institutions of higher learning (IPTA).

He said the local IPTAs were the Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Research Centre, and Politeknik Pagoh.

"The total cost for the construction of the education hub, encompassing several phases up to 15 years, is expected to be between RM5bil and RM6bil," said Muhyiddin, who is also the Member of Parliament for Pagoh.

He said the Pagoh Education Hub would be developed on a 1,000-acre site out of a total of 4,100 acres, which would be developed as the Pagoh University Town.

More in The Star on Thursday

Hisham will ask Cabinet to make public report on Bersih rally

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 03:38 AM PDT

Published: Thursday September 15, 2011 MYT 6:39:00 PM

IPOH: The Home Ministry will propose to the Cabinet to make public the complete report on the investigation into the allegations against the police handling of the Bersih 2.0 illegal gathering in Kuala Lumpur on July 9.

Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said Thursday he would make the proposal when tabling the report to the Cabinet next week.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar had briefed him on the police investigations into the matter, he told reporters at the Aidilfitri reception organised by the Perak police here.

Ismail said Wednesday he had submitted the report to Hishammuddin. - Bernama

Related Stories:
IGP: Report Bersih rally sent to Home Minister
Witnesses hesitant to come forward over Tung Shin tear-gas incident
PM: Do not doubt Govt sincerity over electoral reforms
EC says it's ready to meet Bersih
A-G objects to Bersih's leave application
Lessons to be learned


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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On target

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 03:56 AM PDT

Brit actress Rosamund Pike takes aim and fires up a classy performance in Johnny English Reborn.

WITH her classy, cut-glass vowels and regal elegance, London-born Brit actress Rosamund Pike certainly personifies the classic English rose. Talk about an exquisitely glamorous personality seemingly tailor made for the big screen – and in particular, the spy movie genre.

Having scored her first big break in movies as Miranda Frost (the stunning Bond girl in Die Another Day), the 31-year-old former Oxford graduate returns to the clandestine world of spies and secret agents in Johnny English Reborn, the sequel to Rowan Atkinson's 2002 spy-comedy Johnny English, which opens today in cinemas nationwide.

Spying, it would appear, has been very good to Rosamund Pike over the years.

"Oh yes, spying has really helped my career tremendously," joked Pike, looking even more attractive and radiant in person than on film and blessed with a dry sense of humour, during a recent roundtable interview in Sydney, Australia.

"I hoped that I would be recruited in Oxford because you always heard these stories while you're there that they recruit a lot (of spies) but sadly nobody came."

Taking on the rather challenging task of being the love interest to MI7's most disaster prone but oddly effective agent in Johnny English Reborn was some experience. Pike plays Kate Sumner, British Military Intelligence Section 7's gorgeous behavioural psychologist who somehow falls for English's heroic, goofy charms.

"When he jumps off the building and saves the day and goes after the bad guy with the parachute in the end ... yeah, I love a bit of James Bond in someone. But he's odd and he'd be a difficult man to love I think!" she said with a laugh.

To prepare for her role as psychologist, Pike revealed that she read up on the subject and also talked to an expert in the field.

"You never have to research but I think it's an added perk of the job as you get to explore another world," she reasoned.

"So yeah I read books about body language and went to see a hypnotherapist but I didn't let him put me under. I think as actors, we'd be very susceptible. I think we are very easily suggestible."

From Pierce Brosnan to Rowan Atkinson, one has to wonder as to how these two leading men compare.

"Well, they are very similar actually," reckoned Pike.

"I think they both wear a suit very well and they both drive a car very well, they are both very good in extreme circumstances. No, I couldn't tell the difference really when it came down to it."

She pauses for thought before sizing up the man behind Johnny English.

"With Rowan, it's always amazing to watch him close up. I've watched him since I was a child and then suddenly to be able to see him close up was quite something. I've always been a Mr Bean fan and found that hilarious. What was it like kissing him? Well it was my first time kissing a man wearing lipstick. Now I insist on it."

As Johnny English's psychologist in the film, Pike's character had to discover the real man underneath the expensive suit and inept behaviour.

"I think Johnny English a fascinating study because he's someone that can't really hide," she mused.

"Everything is shown with him. He's tries to be arrogant and a bit vain but he doesn't really pull it off. He's like an open book for her, a perfect case study, and then she thinks how do you become a man like this? So guilelessand socially inept. Yet also endearing because he's also heroic and brave.

"I think Rowan created a really rounded character in this film and I think it's a big step forward from the previous film. I think this is a much more sophisticated take. It's like he kept pace with the direction James Bond is going, darker and grittier," she added.

For Pike, the decision to join the cast of Johnny English Reborn was a mission made easier once she had read the script and bought into the concept of the film coming across like a Bond film with jokes. The plot, felt Pike, was on an international scale and was worthy of a proper Bond film – albeit one with plenty of slapstick humour to it.

"It's got intrigue, colour, scope and lots of different textures. I think the secret is that you have to play very straight. We had to behave like we were in a very serious Bond film in order to allow him to flourish and be silly."

Johnny English Reborn opens in cinemas nationwide today.

Music trail

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 12:35 AM PDT

Documentaries and musicians feature prominently at the Toronto Film Festival.

ROCK icons U2 descended onto the Toronto International Film Festival's recently for the premiere of new documentary From The Sky Down, admitting to nervousness over letting fans into their private world of making music.

The movie, which is the first documentary to open the Toronto film festival in its 36-year history, looks at the creative process of making their 1991 album Achtung Baby, and tensions back then in the band.

Singer Bono and guitarist The Edge took to the festival's opening night stage and confessed that even superstars get nervous when entering a new arena – from music to film.

"We are very protective of our privacy, particularly the creative process, not just because we are precious, which we are," Bono told a laughing audience, before confiding that the fear was in letting audiences see them struggle to make music. "If you knew what went into the sausage, you wouldn't eat it."

The Edge added that it was "shocking" to see a lot of the old film footage from 20 years ago and "to realise how close our band came to disintegrating at that particular moment."

The appearance of Bono and The Edge made last week's opening night screening one of the hottest tickets in town at the 11-day festival where other rock documentaries about Pearl Jam and Neil Young are getting top billing.

The festival, a widely-watched event often seen as a starting point in the movie industry's annual Oscar race, features a long list of Hollywood royalty, from Brad Pitt and George Clooney to Keira Knightley and Glenn Close.

But the opening belonged to a nonfiction film for the first time in festival's history, and organisers noted both the event and U2 originated in 1976. The band soared to rock stardom in the 1980s, and Achtung Baby was seen as a daring reinvention following the huge success of 1987's Joshua Tree and 1988's somewhat less well-received Rattle And Hum.

"This film isn't just about the biggest band in the world," director Davis Guggenheim told the audience. "It's really just about four musicians trying to make music."

From the Sky Down opens as U2 is about to play the Glastonbury Festival for the first time this year and is looking to rework older songs. As Bono says: "There comes a time when it is dysfunctional not to look into the past."

It then looks back at the rise of U2 through early film footage and leads up to the making of Achtung Baby, which was influenced by industrial and electronic music and featured the hits One and Mysterious Ways.

"I had goose pimples witnessing how they did it," said Guggenheim, whose 2006 global warming film An Inconvenient Truth won the Academy Award for best feature documentary.

"I don't think really it's a film about our band in as much as it's a film about the creative process. If you're interested in that, you're going to be interested in this film I think, but I find it excruciating," Bono said on the red carpet.

From the Sky Down is just one of a number of high-profile documentaries at the festival. Others offer audiences a look into personalities like Sarah Palin, as well as a murderer on death row and comic book fanatics. There's also a 15-hour epic that chronicles the history of film.

But documentaries will likely be overshadowed by stars such as George Clooney, who is in Toronto for The Ides of March, which he directed and stars in, as well as The Descendants, in which he portrays an indifferent husband and father forced to reexamine his life.

Pitt stars in Moneyball, based on the true story of Billy Beane, a professional baseball manager who reinvents his team, while David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, starring Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley, will be tested for audience reaction after runs at other festivals.

Eyes will also be watching Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs, a drama the five-time Academy Award nominee co-wrote in which she plays a woman pretending to be a male butler set in 19th century Ireland. – Reuters

More than just a game

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 12:35 AM PDT

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 was one of the top draws last 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.

Pitt told Reuters that he learned to appreciate the nuances and complexities of the game while making the movie, helped by several meetings with 49-year-old Beane, but he is not your typical baseball fanatic.

"It's shameful how little I know about baseball, but what I know about it, I got – it was a pop fly in the fourth grade – 18 stitches," he said, referring to getting hit by ball when he was just a kid, opening a flesh wound. "I find it really tranquil when it is on (TV) in the background now .... There is a reason why it has become our national pastime. It's a team sport yet at the same time it is an individual battle."

The film's creators want movie audiences to see that Moneyball is not just another tale in the vein of The Natural, Major League or other baseball films that have become ubiquitous. They are banking on Pitt, 47, to transform Beane's use of bland statistics and mathematical tables into entertaining movie fare. And for that, they've tailored the story of the Oakland A's into a tale of beating the odds.

"We are always looking for undercurrents in films, what is going on underneath it," Pitt said, adding that Moneyball is "much more than a baseball film" and more of "an underdog story. You have a justice story."

The film with a budget of US$47mil (RM143mil) was adapted by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Social Network, from the Michael Lewis book Moneyball: The Art Of Winning An Unfair Game.

It begins with Beane coming off a highly successful 2001 season where the small market A's lost baseball stars including Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon to big city teams with lots of money such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Beane recruits an unathletic Yale graduate, Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), and the unlikely duo push a novel approach of using statistics to scout players who will create a competitive team at far less cost. It may seem like inside baseball to some, but Pitt and Hill said the story of Beane and Brand should appeal broadly to moviegoers who aren't necessarily fans of the game.

Hill said he showed it to friends "who couldn't care less about baseball and they all adored it .... It is really about values and underdogs and life choices."

Pitt believes that, statistics aside, the spontaneity of the game which lures fans to ballparks isn't lost in the film. "These guys apply science to it and yet the magical happens when you least expect it, which was true for their season," he said. "It's a magical game, no question."

Early reviews have been generally favourable. The Hollywood Reporter said the movie "looks good perhaps not for a home run but certainly a long double or even an exciting scoot around the bases for a head-first triple."

Daily Variety compared it to Sorkin's Social Network, saying "the story isn't as electrifying. The Social Network was about a highly unusual alpha dog; Moneyball is the story of a highly unusual underdog. No one remakes the world here. But someone does remake the grand old American game of baseball." – Reuters


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