Ahad, 18 September 2011

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Libya Islamist takes inclusive stance

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 08:48 PM PDT

TRIPOLI(Reuters) - Tripoli's military commander, an Islamist whose rise to prominence is being watched closely by the West, said on Sunday he wanted to build a democratic "civil state" in Libya in remarks that laid out an inclusive political vision after 42 years of despotism under Muammar Gaddafi.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj (C), head of Tripoli military council, waits for the arrival of National Transitional Council (NTC) head Mustafa Abdul Jalil at Mitiga airport in Tripoli September 10, 2011. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

In a Reuters interview, Abdel Hakim Belhadj added that he expected Gaddafi's complete defeat very soon, and that Tripoli was stabilising gradually in a process that would lead eventually to the return to the streets of a police service open to revolutionary fighters who sought to participate in it.

Dressed in military fatigues and seated on a sofa in a reception room at an upscale Tripoli hotel, the soft-spoken Belhadj, in his late 40s, reiterated that he wanted an apology from Britain for what he said was its role in transferring him to Libya under Gaddafi, a move he said violated his human rights.

Asked if there was room for all political shades of opinion in a future Libya, he replied: "Libya will be built by all Libyans."

"They have a big challenge, which is building a democratic and modern, civil state with rules, governed with justice and equality."

"As for the form of the government, this depends on Libyans' choice. Democracy has more than one form. The most important things is whoever rules, rules justly and gives opportunity to the people without dictatorship, even if it is wrapped with democracy."


There have been anxieties among Western officials about apparent rifts between rival factions, including Islamists possibly backed by interests in the Gulf, in the ranks of the country's National Transitional Council (NTC) interim leadership.

These concerns rose after the still unexplained July 28 killing of the military commander of anti-Gaddafi forces, Abdel Fattah Younes, a former top Gaddafi security official, after he was taken into custody by his own side for questioning.

Western concerns about Islamists were exacerbated this month when some of them strongly criticised Libya's interim rulers -- a mainly secular group of technocrats, some of them former Gaddafi officials -- for allegedly behaving in a high handed manner towards Islamists and those of other political persuasions.

The criticisms triggered a bout of recriminations in the anti-Gaddafi camp that worried some Libyans who say the proliferation of guns during the conflict means the country cannot afford to raise the political temperature.

But Belhadj -- not one of those who have voiced strong opinions publicly -- said the outbreak of public ill-feeling was more the result of a desire to air long-suppressed views than any ideological divide.

"What you see now is the eruption of someone who was under oppression," he said.

"Libyans were denied the right to express their feelings ... There was a wall in front of them. When this wall was removed they just started to express themselves. What we care for is what the (ordinary) Libyans are saying what they are thinking of us."

Asked to describe his background he said simply that he was a man who sought an end to Gaddafi's rule.


"We wanted to get rid of this criminal. We stood with whoever was against him ... I'm not a military man, even though I carried some military duties. Gaddafi forced us to resist him, to carry weapons against him."

Belhadj suggested he valued pluralism. "God said to be different is possible, disagreement is possible and it happens. The Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, lived with Christians and Jews and had peaceful dealings with them."

But he said he wanted an apology from British officials he said were responsible for helping his transfer to Libya in 2004.

"I asked for apologies from those people who were involved in giving me up and handling me. This is against human rights for sure."

Belhadj, who spent time with the Taliban in Afghanistan, fled to Iran after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. He later went to south-east Asia where he is believed to have been arrested. He was handed over to Libya in 2004 in circumstances that remain unclear.

"Britain claims it cares for human rights -- what about their handing me over to whoever does not respect human rights. I have proof that they are involved and that's why I asked for an apology."

Britain has said an inquiry into the alleged ill-treatment of suspected terrorists will examine Belhadj's case.

Turning to Tripoli's security, he said he was "securing the capital."

"When we have a structure for the country, its institutions, especially the security institutions and the ministry of interior for example, then we will have a police structure."

"(At that time) we will call the revolutionaries, whoever wants to join those police branches, he will join, or those who don't will go back to their original jobs and hand over their guns that should go back to the weapons stores."

(Editing by Barry Malone)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Opponents tell Berlusconi to quit over sex scandal

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 08:48 PM PDT

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faced growing pressure on Sunday to resign after embarrassing new revelations of parties and young women prompted questions about his ability to govern a country rocked by financial crisis.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacts during a debate in the upper house of parliament in Rome September 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Italian newspapers in recent days have replaced front page headlines on soaring bond yields and sliding shares with wiretapped chats between Berlusconi and Giampaolo Tarantini, a businessman suspected of providing prostitutes for the premier.

In one excerpt published by the Corriere della Sera daily, Berlusconi boasts of champagne-filled partying till 6:30 am at a Milan nightclub and pocketing eight phone numbers of women. He also brags of fending off a line of 11 girls outside his door and "doing only eight girls, because I couldn't do more".

"If you have a girl -- two girls, three girls -- to bring," Berlusconi is quoted as asking the southern businessman ahead of their next encounter, "please don't get tall ones ... because we are not tall."

In another excerpt reported by major dailies, Berlusconi says "Gianpi" and his female friends could come along on the premier's flight to Milan. Yet another has him joking to a young woman that he is premier in his "spare time".

Opposition parties stepped up calls for Berlusconi to resign after the latest disclosures, saying a country immersed in a debt crisis that threatens the entire euro zone could not afford a premier who governs in his spare time.

"Is there a single reason comprehensible to the world on why Berlusconi should not resign?" Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party said.

Berlusconi loyalists, however, rallied to defend the premier and said he would not bow to demands to step aside.

"Berlusconi does not have any desire to resign," said Angelino Alfano, secretary of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party.


Berlusconi has kept up a defiant attitude through various scandals, blaming his old foes -- "Communist" magistrates and a "leftist" press -- for hounding him mercilessly.

The media mogul maintains his private parties were elegant, convivial affairs and his lawyer says the premier was unaware of any links between Tarantini and prostitution.

Tarantini was arrested with his wife earlier this month on suspicion of extorting money from Berlusconi in return for his silence over the prostitution allegations.

He is also suspected of procuring women for Berlusconi in a bid to curry political favours and win contracts, including some with Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica.

Finmeccanica has not been charged with wrongdoing and says it has never given contracts to Tarantini or to another businessman who was also named in the wiretaps. Two executives at the firm resigned last week after their names cropped up in published excerpts of wiretaps from judicial probes.

The latest disclosures form an ever-more complicated web of scandal and legal headaches around the beleaguered premier, who has hung on despite a barrage of lurid scandals over the years.

His wife has sought divorce after accusing him of cavorting with minors, while the infamous "Rubygate" affair has seen him accused of paying for sex with a teenage prostitute.

Revelations of "bunga bunga" parties with escorts and showgirls angling for jobs in his media empire have prompted incredulity and sniggers, but failed to push him out of power.

Still, the latest disclosures come at a sensitive time for the premier, who is grappling with slumping ratings, frustrated allies, a financial storm that has driven up Italy's borrowing costs and an unpopular austerity package.

Adding to the confusion, Berlusconi's volatile ally Umberto Bossi on Sunday reiterated a call for the secession of Italy's rich north at a speech to his Northern League party faithful.

Faced with the League's sliding popularity among voters in its northern home base, Bossi has stepped up his familiar rhetoric of a hard-working north paying for a profligate south and expressed doubts about the government seeing out its term.

Still, he has so far remained loyal to Berlusconi in parliament, ensuring the media mogul stays in power.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

I made a "moral error", Strauss-Kahn tells France

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 08:48 PM PDT

PARIS (Reuters) - Dominique Strauss-Kahn apologised to his country on Sunday for a sexual encounter with a hotel maid he said was a "moral error" he would regret all his life, and vowed to stay out of the Socialist Party's 2012 election campaign in France.

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves his apartment, hours after being questioned by police, in Paris September 12, 2011. (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Files)

In his first interview since a New York sex assault case derailed his IMF career and wrecked his chances of running for president, Strauss-Kahn said he was angry with himself for what he called an ill-judged but consensual liaison that had let down his country and hurt his family.

"It was a moral error, and I am not proud of it," Strauss-Kahn said in an interview on TF1's primetime Sunday evening TV news programme, watched by millions. "I regret it, infinitely, and I don't think I am finished with regretting it."

Sounding repentant but also defensive over the rush to judge him as a criminal for a private act he said involved no violence, the former International Monetary Fund head said he had "lost everything" over the incident.

Once seen as the left's best chance of winning power in the April 2012 election, Strauss-Kahn returned to France on Sept. 4 after a New York prosecutor dropped attempted rape charges related to his nine-minute encounter with a Sofitel hotel maid.

Dressed in a dark suit and sober midnight-blue tie, with a tightly buttoned shirt and neatly combed hair, his appearance on Sunday was a far cry from the dishevelled, unshaven prisoner paraded before cameras in handcuffs after his mid-May arrest.

He was also a different man from the poised, erudite IMF chief and ex-finance minister who has addressed the world from hundreds of high-profile podiums over the years.

Dry-mouthed, nervous and clearly uncomfortable, he joined a string of powerful men from former U.S. president Bill Clinton to ex-congressman Anthony Weiner to publicly apologise for a sexual peccadillo. He told TF1 interviewer Claire Chazal, a friend of his wife Anne Sinclair, that he was a changed man.

"I have paid heavily for it. I am still paying for it. I have seen the pain I have caused around me and I have reflected deeply," Strauss-Kahn told Chazal, who also seemed ill-at-ease, keeping her arms tightly crossed throughout the interview.


The attempted rape charges were dropped late in August after doubts arose over the hotel maid's credibility. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers had said from the start that the brusque encounter with the Guinean maid in his luxury suite was sexual but consensual and non-violent.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, added on Sunday that it had not involved any payment.

Rather than gloss over the scandal and focus on restoring his credibility as a world economic authority, as many had expected, Strauss-Kahn spent most of the interview expressing his regret and defending his innocence, speaking only briefly about the euro zone crisis.

"What happened was not only an inappropriate liaison but more than that, an error vis-a-vis my wife, my children, my friends and the French people," he said.

Strauss-Kahn took a strongly defensive tone at times, holding up a copy of the prosecutor's report and stressing that it ruled out signs of force during the encounter, which saw him seek oral sex from the maid moments after she entered his room.

Known in France by his initials DSK, Strauss-Kahn told TF1 he would take time to reflect on what to do with his career.

"I wanted to be a candidate (for the election). I thought I could be useful. All that is behind me," he said. "I don't think it's my role to get involved in the (Socialist) primary."

"I am going first of all to rest, spend time with my loved ones, take time to think. But my whole life has been dedicated to trying to be useful for the public good and we will see."

Strauss-Kahn's arrest set off a wave of muck-raking of his extramarital dalliance and sparked soul-searching in France over a tradition of hushing up sexual escapades by politicians and other public figures.

A group of feminists gathered outside TF1 before the interview, brandishing signs reading "What's seduction for you?" and "DSK, sexual deviant, King of the chimps".

Strauss-Kahn's political allies have cheered his release but the Socialist Party has moved on and is holding its primary selection contest without him. Party leaders have sounded lukewarm over him taking a role in their 2012 campaign.

An Ifop opinion poll in Sunday's Journal du Dimanche newspaper found that 53 percent of those surveyed want Strauss-Kahn to retire from politics. Other polls have found that two-thirds of French want him to stay out of the left's campaign and not hold a position in a future left-wing government.

Strauss-Kahn still faces a civil case in New York over the incident at the Times Square Sofitel, and has been questioned in France over a separate sexual assault accusation dating back to 2003 by a woman 30 years his junior.

(Additional reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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'Modern Family'' dominates early Emmy winners

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 06:15 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ''Modern Family'' dominated the early winners at the Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday, winning the first four trophies for the ABC mockumentary.

Julie Bowen was a surprise first-time winner for her supporting role in comedy ''Modern Family,'' while her screen husband Ty Burrell, also an Emmy rookie, took the trophy for supporting actor.

''Oh my God! Are you kidding me? I don't know what I am going to talk about in therapy now,'' an astonished Bowen said.

The comedy about three assorted couples and their children also won Emmys for directing and writing, putting it in a commanding position to win best comedy series later on Sunday for the second straight year.

''Welcome back to the 'Modern Family' awards! '' Emmy host Jane Lynch quipped.

Best drama series - another top prize - will be handed out toward the end of the three-hour ceremony.

Melissa McCarthy won lead comedy actress at her first shot for her role in ''Mike & Molly'' on CBS, in which she plays a teacher who falls in love with a man she meets at an overeaters group.

Jim Parsons made it two in a row for his lead comedy actor role as the geeky physicist of ''The Big Bang Theory.'' But Parson's win meant a fifth straight Emmy defeat for departing ''The Office'' star Steve Carell.

Lynch, wearing a shimmering floor length gown, introduced the show with a video-taped swing through the sets of shows like ''Mad Men,'' ''Big Bang Theory'' and her own comedy ''Glee,'' and a live song and dance routine.

A smiling Charlie Sheen, on the comeback trail after being sensationally fired from CBS hit ''Two and A Half Men,'' was one of the surprise presenters of the night.

''From the bottom of my heart, I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season,'' a sincere Sheen said.

Advertising drama ''Mad Men'' is vying for a fourth straight win but is thought to be facing stiff competition from the Prohibition-era gangsters of ''Boardwalk Empire.''

Medieval fantasy series ''Game of Thrones,'' which proved a surprise success for HBO, has an army of fans, while CBS lawyer show ''The Good Wife'' starring Julianna Margulies topped an Xfinity TV poll on Facebook as favorite drama. ''Dexter'' and ''Friday Night Lights'' make up the other drama contenders.

Margulies also is the front-runner for best dramatic actress, along with Elisabeth Moss, who plays the quiet but feisty young Peggy Olson of ''Mad Men.''

''It is such a great showcase for Moss. It is quite a contest. I think Margulies will win, but it is very close,'' said Tom O'Neil of awards website TheEnvelope.com.

Jon Hamm, who plays suave but enigmatic Don Draper in ''Mad Men,'' also is hoping to clinch his first Emmy this year but has Steve Buscemi of ''Boardwalk Empire'' hot on his heels.

The HBO miniseries ''Mildred Pierce'' has a leading 21 nominations and is expected to deliver an acting Emmy for its star, British actress Kate Winslet.

''There was nothing 'mini' about filming 'Mildred Pierce,' Winslet said Sunday. ''No question, it was the toughest job I have done since 'Titanic.'''

Melissa McCarthy wins best comedy actress Emmy

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 06:00 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Melissa McCarthy won the Emmy for best comedy actress Sunday for her role in ''Mike & Molly.''

McCarthy, 41, won the Emmy on her first try for playing a teacher who finds romance with a man she meets at a self-help group for overeaters.

The CBS series marks the first time McCarthy has stepped up from her supporting roles on TV shows like ''The Gilmore Girls and ''Samantha Who?'' to take a lead part.

It's been a breakthrough year for McCarthy, who also wowed critics in the raunchy summer female comedy ''Bridesmaids''.

''Mad Men'' tries to fend off ''Boardwalk'' at Emmys

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 04:46 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television's ''Mad Men'' went to the Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday, hoping to fend off the Prohibition-era gangsters of ''Boardwalk Empire'' and win a fourth straight victory at the industry's top honors.

''Glee'' star Chris Colfer, Christina Hendricks of ''Mad Men'' and Joel McHale of ''Community'' were among early arrivals on a red carpet packed with diamond jewelry and glorious gowns in shades of coral and pink.

More than 20 Emmys will be handed out in the live telecast on the Fox network hosted by ''Glee'' star Jane Lynch, who could find herself accepting an early award for her supporting actress role as a sarcastic cheerleading coach on the hit musical comedy.

But all eyes will be on the top prizes - for best comedy and drama series to be handed out at the end of the three-hour ceremony - and some major upsets could be in store, especially in the acting categories.

ABC mockumentary and 2010 Emmy comedy series winner ''Modern Family'' goes into Sunday's awards with 17 nominations, including acting mentions for all six of its stars.

That puts it in a commanding position for a repeat victory over rivals ''Glee,'' ''The Office,'' ''Parks and Recreation'' and ''The Big Bang Theory.''

The contest for best drama is much closer. HBO's lavish new show ''Boardwalk Empire,'' with 18 nominations, has already taken Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild trophies and is regarded as a major contender, despite the 19 nods to ''Mad Men,'' the 1960s advertising drama on AMC.

Medieval fantasy series ''Game of Thrones,'' which proved a surprise success for HBO, has an army of fans, while CBS lawyer show ''The Good Wife'' starring Julianna Margulies topped an Xfinity TV poll on Facebook as favorite drama. ''Dexter'' and ''Friday Night Lights'' make up the other drama contenders. ACTORS & ACTRESSES

Margulies also is the front-runner for best dramatic actress, along with Elisabeth Moss, who plays the quiet but feisty young Peggy Olson of ''Mad Men.''

''It is such a great showcase for Moss. It is quite a contest. I think Margulies will win, but it is very close,'' said Tom O'Neil of awards website TheEnvelope.com.

Jon Hamm, who plays suave but enigmatic Don Draper in ''Mad Men,'' also is hoping to clinch his first Emmy this year.

''Hamm is the lead star of this Emmy-anointed show who has never won. But he has got to watch out for Steve Buscemi on 'Boardwalk Empire,''' said O'Neil.

The HBO miniseries ''Mildred Pierce'' has a leading 21 nominations and is expected to deliver an acting Emmy for its star, British actress Kate Winslet.

But surprises could be in store for Emmy newcomer Melissa McCarthy of comedy ''Mike & Molly,'' who also stole the show in the summer movie ''Bridesmaids.''

''She is an outstanding comedic actress. She was also so funny and winning in 'Bridesmaids' and I think audiences got her and she won new fans,'' said Todd Gold, managing editor of Xfinity TV.

The popular reality competition slot is also a cliffhanger. Victory may finally be at hand for America's most-watched show, ''American Idol,'' but ''Dancing with the Stars'' or ''So You Think You Can Dance'' could waltz away with the Emmy.

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Yih-shin finds form at right time to hit the jackpot

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 06:37 PM PDT

MACAU: Taiwan's Chan Yih-shin recovered from the worst possible start and a dismal spell of form in recent months to grab his second Asian Tour title by three shots in the US$750,000 Macau Open golf tournament yesterday.

Yih-shin's tee shot went out-of-bounds for a double bogey on the first hole but he rallied with a massive chip-in birdie from 40 feet on 12 before closing with a two-under 69 in blustery conditions at the Macau Golf and Country Club.

He ended his campaign with a winning total of 14-under 270 and pocketed the winner's cheque of US$118,875 in Asia's casino hub.

David Gleeson of Australia and Thai Thaworn Wiratchant, both former Macau Open champions, shot matching 66s to finish second and third respectively for their first top-10 finishes on the Tour this year.

Yih-shin's victory ended a poor run of form where he has had no top-10 finishes since October.

"I didn't know what to think after my double bogey but I kept telling myself to calm down," said Yih-shin, 34, winner of the 2009 King's Cup in Thailand.

"The pressure was there in the first nine and I felt better only after my chip-in birdie.

"I didn't putt very well in the beginning of the year and that was why I didn't get a good result. This whole week was the best that I've putted and I'm glad to be able to come out victorious."

His nervy start saw the lead change hands between him and Mo Joong-Kyung of South Korea on several occasions.

He was trailing Joong-kyung by one shot after the turn but produced a magical run starting from his birdie on 12 before adding crucial birdies on 13, 14 and 16 to cruise home with a wire-to-wire victory as the South Korean faded.

Joong-kyung signed off in tied fourth place after a round of 72 with Zaw Moe of Myanmar and Asian Tour honorary member Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who closed on identical 69s.

Ben Leong was Malaysia's best finisher, finishing in joint 28th spot after carding a 69 for a 282 total.

Danny Chia, the other Malaysian to make the cut, had a disastrous round. He blew up with a 78 to finish joint 58th with a 288 total.

Vicknesweran’s boys shoot down soldiers in opening match

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 06:35 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Sapura were on fire in their opening Malaysia Hockey League's Premier Division match, whipping Armed Forces 4-0 win at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

The match also saw the first hat-trick of the season with national forward Azreen Rizal Nasir scoring field goals in the eighth, 29th and 66th minutes. Joel van Huizen added the other goal in the 70th minute.

Sapura, last year's overall runners-up, dominated the match against the ineffective Forces side and could have added more goals to their tally. They had five penalty corners, but wasted all of them.

Coach I. Vicknesweran was pleased his team managed to get off to a good start

"First match jitters is always a worry. Initially, I was quite apprehensive. But collecting the full points will add confidence to the team and we must now prepare for our next match," he said.

Vicknesweran. however, was not too happy with their finishing.

"This is a an area of concern for us. We should have tucked in a few more goals from the penalty corners. We also missed quite a number of sitters as well. We will need to improve on our finishing. I'm sure the players will learn from this experience," added Vicknesweran.

In the second match of the day, the battle between the two university sides ended in a 1-1 draw.

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) had a good chance to start off with a win but an overly defensive display in the second half saw Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) fight back to secure a point.

The UiTM side paraded five foreign players – Tariq Nazir Ahmad, Sami Ullah Saleem Mohamed, Sherat Ali Rafaqat Ali, Mohamed Rizwan and Mohamed Sohail – from Qatar. They took only two minutes to sound the board with Mohamed Sohail flicking home from a penalty corner.

UiTM should have kept going but instead they took their leg off the pedal and allowed the UniKl side to dominate play after the breather.

UniKl had a number of penalty corners but failed to make them count. UiTM goalkeeper Shahrul Azaddin Auskarzie was also in his element, stopping some good shots at goal.

But in the 59th minute, the UniKl team could not be denied the equaliser after camping themselves in the UiTM half. Mohamed Noor Faeez Ibrahim finally found the net with their eighth penalty corner attempt and that allowed them to share points.

Korean world No. 2 pair prevent clean sweep by China

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 06:33 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: South Koreans Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae prevented China from making a clean sweep at the China Masters badminton cham­pion­ships by lifting the men's doubles title in Changzhou yesterday.

The world number two survived a strong challenge from four-time world champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng to win 21-17, 21-10 in a 38-minute final.

China won the other four titles but two walkouts in the women's singles and women's doubles events marred the seventh leg of the Super Series event.

Wang Shixian bagged the singles crown after compatriot Jiang Yanjiao conceded a walkover due to a knee injury.

In the doubles, Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli conceded a walkover to Huan Xia and Tang Jinhua after Yu Yang came down with a leg injury.

Final results

Men's singles: Chen Long (Chn) bt Chen Jin (Chn) 21-16, 22-20.

Men's doubles: Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae (Kor) bt Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (Chn) 21-17, 21-10.

Women's singles: Wang Shixian (Chn) bt Jiang Yanjiao (Chn) 21-16, 8-5 (rtd).

Women's doubles: Huan Xia-Tang Jinhua (Chn) bt Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (Chn) 21-19 (rtd).

Mixed doubles: Xu Chen-Ma Jin (Chn) bt Yoo Yeon-seong-Jang Ye-na (Kor) 21-13, 21-16.

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India's GVK pays $1.26 billion for stake in Australia's Hancock

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 05:47 PM PDT

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's GVK Power & Infrastructure will pay $1.26 billion for a majority stake in three Australian coal mines and a port and rail project owned by Hancock Group to secure long-term coal supplies for the Indian group's power projects.

The Indian infrastructure group will acquire a 79 percent stake in the Alpha and Alpha West coal mines in the Galilee Basin, and will buy Kevin's Corner coal mine and the rail and port project connecting the coal mines outright, it said in a statement late on Friday.

"At full production the three coal projects are together expected to supply about 84 million tons per annum to the global sea-borne coal market," GVK said in a statement adding most of the coal from the projects was meant for Asian markets.

The deal ends months of talks, which began in February and have been extended through the year.

GVK will pay $500 million initially to Hancock, $200 million after one year, and the remainder on financial close of the project, which is expected to be 2012, it said adding the deal would be funded by bank loans.

The first phase of production, scheduled to start in 2014, is expected bring in more than 30 million tons per year of thermal coal, it said.

Indian energy firms have been scouting for overseas coal assets, typically in Australia, Indonesia and Africa, to feed power plants at home.

India holds 10 percent of the world's coal reserves, but local supplies are falling short as the country builds more power plants and as domestic coal projects run into environmental and land acquisition delays.

Last year India's Lanco Infratech bought coal mines from Australia's Griffin Coal for an undisclosed sum, while Adani Enterprises agreed to buy Galilee coal project from Australia's Linc Energy for $2.7 billion.

In May this year, Adani unit Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone agreed to buy Abbot Point Coal Terminal in Australia for $2 billion in an all-cash deal to tap into growing coal traffic in overseas markets.

Conflict gold guidelines "No. 1 priority" for LBMA

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 05:44 PM PDT

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The London Bullion Market Association is working out ways for refiners on its Good Delivery List to avoid falling foul of new regulations against conflict gold as a "number one priority," LBMA chairman David Gornall told Reuters on Sunday.

Due diligence requirements for gold sourced from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo are currently under consideration by both the United States and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A proposal being considered under the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law would require companies to disclose whether they use "conflict minerals," like gold, from the DRC.

The LBMA, whose Good Delivery List of refiners is the gold industry's chief source of high-quality bullion, says the proposal could be disruptive to the refining industry if it is not swiftly addressed.

Speaking on the sidelines of the LBMA's annual conference here, Gornall said: "We will issue guidance on conflict gold due diligence so that it is practical for the refiners and credible for the outside world."

"The aim would be that the LBMA's guidance will become the OECD's guidance. We are after all the ultimate authority on physical gold, and therefore there can't be anybody better placed to do it than us," he added.

The association hopes to deliver guidance to members by the end of this year or early 2012, he said.

The World Gold Council, the largest industry group representing global gold miners, said in June that it had proposed standards allowing miners to certify their gold production as conflict-free.

But refiners have additional problems in proving the provenance of scrap gold they receive, 1,645 tons of which was returned to the market last year.

"If you've got primary mined gold, it is pretty straightforward where it's come from and you can prove it," said Gornall. "It's the scrap that is" the problem.

"We are going to have to get to the stage where... we take everything that is in existence at the moment from a good delivery refiner to be considered as conflict free," he said. "We have to draw a line and grandfather everything prior to that."

As to whether this prove acceptable to U.S. regulators, he added: "That remains to be seen."

Conflict minerals are a hot topic in the United States. Signatories to the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), including Apple and Microsoft , have agreed to curb the use of uncertified minerals from the DRC.

The EICC is pushing gold refiners to agree to spot checks on their activities, Gornall said. "We are trying to do something on a broader basis, that doesn't involve individual audits through every one of the good delivery refiners," he said.

"If we can get to a (regulation) that covers not just the conflict gold area but every part of due diligence, we will have done ourselves and the market a great service."

The LBMA's conference has been extended into Tuesday afternoon to include a special session on gold market regulation, said Gornall, who took over as the association's chairman in June.

Regulatory issues are set to become a key concern in years to come as broader financial market regulation spreads, one LBMA delegate said on the sidelines of the event.

UK's Cable plans clampdown on executive pay

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 05:42 PM PDT

BIRMINGHAM (Reuters) - British companies will be required to publish more details on the pay packages of top executives under a government drive to fix a "disconnect" between remuneration and corporate performance, Business Secretary Vince Cable said on Monday.

Pay at the top of Britain's biggest companies has soared in recent years while salaries for workers have barely kept pace with inflation, a politically sensitive issue while the coalition pursues a tough deficit-cutting austerity program.

"The disconnect between pay and long-term performance suggests that there is something dysfunctional about the market in executive pay or a failure in corporate governance arrangements," Cable said in extracts of a speech released in advance.

"We want to explore what is causing it and how it can be addressed," he added.

The announcement, due to be made to members of Cable's Liberal Democrat party at their annual conference, follows previous coalition moves to limit the high level of bonuses paid to bankers, blamed for precipitating the 2008 financial crisis.

It comes as the center-left Lib Dems seek to boost their low poll ratings by ruling out cutting top income tax rates for the most wealthy - an ambition of their Conservative coalition partners - before reducing taxes for the low-paid.

The public would only accept the government's austerity program to reduce the deficit inherited from the banking crisis if the cuts were seen to be fair, Cable said.

"There is a great sense of grievance that workers and pensioners are paying the penalty for a crisis they did not create. I want a real sense of solidarity, which means a narrowing of inequalities ... and the wealthy must pay their share," he added.

In recent weeks Cable has been meeting institutional investors to see how to curb what he recently described as "ridiculous levels of remuneration" that were going unchallenged at companies despite little evidence of a correlation with performance.

Bonuses for senior executives at leading UK companies jumped from 48 percent to 90 percent of their salaries between 2002 and last year for the same level of performance, Britain's High Pay Commission said this month.

Cable will now seek wider views on how to address the issue, including giving shareholders the right to vote down directors' pay packages.

At present shareholders can vote on the remuneration of executives but their decision is not binding on the company.

The government will also propose tougher disclosure in company reports from October 2012 on the breakdown of director's pay packages.

Remuneration committees would be required to justify the pay plans, as well as showing how much executives would be paid in the coming year if performance targets were met.

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No assault charges against actor Matthew Fox, city says

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 12:21 AM PDT

CLEVELAND (Reuters): Prosecutors will not file assault charges against "Lost" actor Matthew Fox after he was accused of punching a female bus driver, a Cleveland city official said on Saturday.

Fox was detained and handcuffed by Cleveland police about three weeks ago after witnesses told police he punched Heather Bormann, the driver of a private party bus, multiple times in the chest, stomach and groin.

Bormann, 29, brought an initial complaint against Fox on Aug. 30, two days after the incident.

Asked about the decision, her attorney, J. Norman Stark, said Bormann was not told directly by prosecutors that charges will not be pursued and instead found out from media reports.

"This was an unprovoked attack on a woman, with no provocation, by a man," Stark told Reuters. "According to Ohio law, that is assault."

Fox, who starred on the ABC hit show "Lost" from 2004 to 2010, was not immediately available for comment on Saturday.

Stark said he has pictures of injuries Bormann sustained and believes that Fox is receiving "preferential treatment because he is who he is - an actor."

Bormann, a single mother of three, filed a civil suit against Fox on Tuesday asking compensation for "aggravated felonious assault and battery and the infliction of intentional emotional distress." She is asking for compensation in access of $25,000.

"I hope this matter will be settled .... and she would like an apology," Stark said. "If he had just sent a dozen roses or something like that, this would have been all over."

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Wisma Putra: Postpone travel to southern Thailand

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 03:38 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday advising Malaysians to postpone non-essential travel to southern Thailand due to bombing incidents that killed four Malaysians and injured 18 others.

Malaysians are advised to postpone non-essential travel to the area until the security situation normalises.

"The Ministry continues to monitor the developments there through its embassy in Bangkok and the Consulate in Songkhla which are liasing with the Thai authorities to provide necessary assistance to all Malaysians involved in the incidents," the statement said.

In the statement issued here, the ministry also said that the Consulate General of Malaysia in Songhkhla reported that four Malaysians were killed in the bombing incidents in Sungai Golok, south Thailand on Friday.

The media reported that four Malaysians including a three-year boy were killed in three bombing incidents in Sungai Golok, south Thailand on Friday night.

The dead Malaysians were identified as Wong Hong Yep, 63, Wong Kai Sean, 3, Fong Too Keh, 45, and Chan Yau Wing, 52. Their bodies were reported to have been brought back to Malaysia by their respective families on Saturday.

The statement added that out of the 18 Malaysians injured in the incidents, five were still being treated at the Sungai Golok Hospital, and one at the Yala Hospital, while the others had been discharged after receiving outpatient treatment.

The Malaysians who are still being treated at Sungai Golok Hopsital are Ling Yee Lung, 28, Lai Yok Long, 52, Phoo King Kuang, 54, Wee It Cheng, 61, Cheng Yew Mang, 40, while Ng Sai Kai, 63, is receiving treatment at the Yala Hospital. - Bernama

Related Stories:
Five killed in Sg Golok
Man shocked to see dad and son dead
Thai cops: Sungai Golok safe for tourists

Perak offers land to retired soldiers and cops

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 02:46 AM PDT

IPOH: The Perak government is offering land in the state to 7,000 retired soldiers and policemen to build their homes.

"We hope other states will follow us as a show of appreciation to the ex-servicemen and former policemen.

"They deserved to be given assistance and recognition for their selfless contributions," Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir told reporters after opening the 24th conference of the Perak chapter of the Malaysian Ex-Servicemen Association here Sunday.

He said the state government was discussing with the association and the army cooperatives to nominate deserving candidates to receive the land under the planned RPT Perwira project.

"Priority would be given to those from a poor background and have yet to own a house," he said, adding the state government would find suitable sites for the programme.

Dr Zambry said, however, there was some 250ha of land available in 10 districts for the planned scheme.

The mentri besar said the programme would start off with 3,700 lots in the first phase. The second phase would offer the remaining 3,300 lots.

The state government would charge a minimum premium of RM500 on the land, which is much lower than the normal rate of RM3,000.

Formation of Press Council can reduce pressure on media: NPC

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 02:28 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The proposed setting up of the Malaysian Press Council can help reduce pressure on the media, said National Press Club (NPC) president Mokhtar Hussain.

He said the press council would also be a channel for the media to present proposals to further reduce pressure and open up media freedom.

Mohktar said the setting up of the council was timely owing to the changes in the current media landscape following the emergence of the Internet as an alternative information source.

"Hence, more freedom should be given to the press to play its role without fear and worries.

"In principle, the formation of the press council had been agreed to by senior editors of the country's leading newspapers and magazines," he told reporters during the NPC-AmBank-Milo Media Run 2011 here Sunday.

The Malaysian Press Council will likely be modelled along the lines of the media councils in India or United Kingdom to ensure that it will function effectively, he said, adding that a study was being conducted on their regulatory framework.

"We hope the media will be given more freedom of expression in conveying accurate and correct information to the public," he added. - Bernama

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Cost vs quality

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 04:56 AM PDT

Instead of good books on Malaysian literature, our children get boring fare produced without much care.

I'VE been exchanging emails for the last couple of months with Deborah Ahenkorah, the young Ghanaian who co-founded the Golden Baobab Prize, a literary award that aims to inspire African writers to create African literature for African children.

Ahenkorah grew up reading British and American books and this made her sensitive to the lack of African children's books. Malaysian readers can surely relate to that. Did any of us grow up reading Malaysian children's books of good quality?

Some of us do remember beloved compilations of folktales, chapter books or picture books, but these are no longer in print. Why are there no classic Malaysian children's books – read and loved by generations, and readily available in school and public libraries and bookstores?

You would think there would be at least one definitive collection of local legends and myths published by, say, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and kept in print for the entertainment and edification of Malaysian children through the ages.

Actually, the more I think of it, the more puzzled I am as to why DBP has not published such a collection, or, indeed, played a more active role in children's publishing. Surely it would have access to the finest writers in the Malay language and surely, publishing good quality Malay language children's books would be in keeping with its mission to promote the language and its usage in Malaysia.

Now, I know DBP publishes children's books, or has done so in the past, but I've never noticed any effort to promote these books. Without promotion, it's no surprise the books lack visibility and, I imagine, suffer from poor sales. Even if they sell well in the library and school markets, I don't believe they are kept in print and will eventually cease to be available, no matter how good they are.

Why would a national body that wishes to champion the national language not put more effort into producing books in which the language is used in a creative and beautiful manner, and which would, in theory, encourage Malaysian children to read more in that language?

I have no answers, but I do continue to hope and dream that local publishers will someday see the need to produce good quality Malaysian children's books.

From what I've observed (from browsing in bookstores, and the book stalls occasionally set up at the school my eight-year-old attends), it seems there is currently more interest in producing large quantities of mediocre material in the shortest time possible – whole series of badly-written, badly-drawn books produced in bulk on cheap paper.

It takes time and money to produce good books and these are not guaranteed to sell well especially as higher production costs also means higher prices.

I guess what we need is a publisher who is willing to take the risk, and one who believes in the importance of providing Malaysian children with good Malaysian literature. Until then, our children will have to live with books that are, by and large, boring, derivative and unmemorable, produced in a noticeably slip-shod fashion by people who just don't give a damn.

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: 18 Sep 2011 04:55 AM PDT

FOR week ending Sept 11, 2001:


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

2.        Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story Of His Trip To Heaven And Back by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent

3.        The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

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

5.        The You Code: What Your Habits Say About You by Judi James and James Moore

6.        No Excuses! – The Power Of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy

7.        The Power Of You: Simple Steps To Develop Your Inner Strength, Master Your Fears And Live To Your Greatest Potential by Anne Jones

8.        Invincible Thinking: There Is No Such Thing As Defeat by Ryuho Okawa

9.        Wonders Of The World: 100 Incredible And Inspiring Places On Earth by Igloo Books Ltd

10. Mandela's Way: Lessons On Life by Richard Stengel


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

2.        Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

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

4.        A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

5.        Room by Emma Donoghue

6.        Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett

7.        The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

8.        Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith

9.        Family Ties by Danielle Steel

10. Rescue by Anita Shreve

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

Lulled by books

Posted: 18 Sep 2011 04:54 AM PDT

I USED to live in a house the memory of which still brings melancholic feelings. In the backyard a pungent smell hung in the air. It came from next door; my neighbour loved to raise and slaughter chickens.

A wisp of smoke rose from the other neighbour's house. The smell of burnt bird waste nauseated me throughout my teenage years but I could not complain to anyone for I lived there alone – most of the time.

My conscience tried to restrain me but my desire won and prompted me to take possession of the bicycle left unattended in front of a shop. It was a red BMXk, on which I rode to various places, one of which was the library.

The state library in the town where I grew up was more than just decent. Its exterior was aesthetic, by the standards of the early 80s, and the interior was majestic with books filling shelves that reached to the ceiling.

It was my dad who had built the library, my mother told me. I went there, hence, every day on my stolen bike, to feel his presence. We hardly lived together as he worked and lived in a faraway town with mum.

I think I read, in the course of four years, almost all the books there were to read in that library. Those were Chinese books. Crime, Chinese classics, love stories, translated novels; anything I could get my hands on, I read.

But that was nothing to be proud of for there remained a sore point – I could not read the English books, particularly those by Enid Blyton. I was a 13-year-old with a poor command of English and an antagonising urge, yet I was unable to read English storybooks.

I tried, with the dictionary, but my ego eroded further as each word unknown became known and too quickly faded away. Scouring and scouting, I ended up reading picture books among little children whose mothers often threw me curious glances. To them, I was probably, in my tattered shoes and stained trousers, a low-class teenager pretending to read English books.

What sort of English books did I manage to read and relish? None. I can't recall any, which also means I did not manage to finish any. That, too, explains why I cannot recommend any Enid Blyton book to my son now. I'm contented for him to not read any.

It might have been those glances that drove me overseas. With very little money, I landed in Kansas, the United States, for higher education, for a shot to be of a higher class, and for a chance to be able to read western literature.

For my first reading assignment in English 101, I picked Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. My glum mood at the time made me choose it, not knowing it would frighten and disorient me further on winter nights.

Was I as gifted as Plath's protagonist? No. I failed two of the three courses I took in the first semester, passing only English 101.

Despite the setback and loneliness, unknown to me then, my life went on, underpinned by a tinge of excitement that I was able to read and write in English. My command of the language slowly improved as I began to read, write and speak.

Hemmingway implored me to be, like him, a minimalist, but I was besotted with John Steinbeck for his descriptive writing, his sympathetic sense of humour and his keen perception of human sufferings. The Salinas Valley in North California was as grassy and gay as Steinbeck described in East of Eden; I made a trip there to see it for myself.

"The memory of odours is very rich," he writes in the book. I could not agree more when I read it then at 21, and now again, 20 years later. The smell of chicken manure, which I now apply to my flowerbeds, reminds me once again of my neighbour and his chickens. It also reminds me of Steinbeck.

And yes, I made it swiftly to high class and high finance but settled down voluntarily in middle class to work among books. Those lonely years and those books I read in college grounded me.

Pick up a book if you think your life is too high-flying. You will be pleasantly lulled.

Abby Wong thinks it may not be technology that makes books obsolete but our lack of time.

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Stroke talk

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 04:52 PM PDT

Restoring speech and communication after a stroke.

Sharon (not her real name) suffered a stroke. On our first meeting, I remember vividly her body language, which was much more expressive than any sentence she could put together. It displayed total openness, and her eyes said it all – "Can you help me?"

Although she understood all that took place around her, and showed this by her head nods and hand gestures as we spoke, she had significant trouble when she attempted to speak.

As with a few of my other patients, without asking, she gestured me to listen to her speak. "Bow (one), bu (two), tatatata (three), orh (four) ," she counted one to four, raising each functional left finger as she spoke.

She then raised her hands in exasperation, and gestured, "Can you fix this?"

My first thought was, "Here is a remarkable woman, a fighter," and our journey to recovery began.

Surviving a stroke brings a new facet of life, not only to the stroke survivor, but to their loving caregivers as well.

"Stroke" by definition means "sudden". It is commonly used in daily language, such as a stroke of luck, a stroke of lightning, and such. It is aptly use by laypersons to depict a cerebral vascular accident (abbreviated as CVA).

A stroke is the sudden death of a portion of the brain due to the lack of oxygen. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is hampered, resulting in abnormal function of the brain. It is caused by blockage or rupture of an artery in the brain.

Sudden are all its changes. A stroke leads to challenges in walking, eating, everyday self-help skills, speaking, communicating, thinking, information processing, judgement, personality change, and much more.

Needless to say, the magnitude of change and the challenges it poses are different for each person, and so is its recovery.

Frightening is often a word that describes the feeling of many.

Recovery after a stroke

After a stroke, some spontaneous recovery takes place for most people. Abilities that may have been lost will begin to return.

This process can take place very quickly over the first few weeks, and then, it may begin to taper off.

This can be a very frustrating time for the stroke survivor as they become aware of their limitations from the stroke.

Often, this is the period where anger or depression can set in.

During this period, and even months after, it is helpful to begin intensive rehabilitation to help with regaining lost skills.

In more recent times, researchers and clinicians have been studying and documenting the evidence of what we now know as brain plasticity (plasticine-ness if there is such a word). Although not fully understood, it is certain now that the brain is able to change, reorganising itself following damage such that the remaining healthy cells of the brain are able to take over jobs that were previously carried out by brain cells which were destroyed.

This means that certain lost functions, such as speech and language, can re-emerge as the result of intensive rehabilitation. One way to do this is to practise your speech, language and thinking skills on a DAILY BASIS.

Speech disorders after a stroke can take the form of dysarthria – commonly referring to speech problems due to weak muscles; dyspraxia – referring to the inability to coordinate and perform speech and oral movements in spite of having no paralysis or muscle damage.

Language deficits are known as aphasia. Aphasia affects all modes of expressive and receptive communication, including speaking, writing, reading, understanding and gesturing.

This can be loosely grouped into either receptive aphasia (understanding skills) or expressive aphasia (expression skills).

Needless to say, this means a myriad of possible combinations of the above challenges.

It is NOT helpful to compare Mr Ahmad to Mr Ali in the hopes of encouraging our loved ones to work hard. Constant, reliable support is a great accompaniment to stroke recovery.

Restoring speech

Speech language pathologists are qualified professionals who can assist your family by assessing, planning, working individually or demonstrating what you can do to help with restoring speech and language skills at home.

In Malaysia, most government hospitals have at least one attending speech language pathologist today.

Others can be found at private hospital set-ups, private centres or home-based visiting clinicians.

Every person can be an element of support and encouragement. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

1. Reassure the person that he/she is still needed and important. Include him/her in family activities and decisions even if the verbal output is minimal.

2. Encourage the person to maintain his social life. A good social life builds up one's confidence and motivation to regain his/her speech language and communication skills. Invite his/her friends over (with permission) for casual chats.

3. Make speaking a pleasant experience and provide stimulating conversation. Tell him/her what's been happening, share with him/her no matter what sort of response you get. Ignore errors when possible and avoid criticisms/corrections.

4. Take a calm, friendly, respectful approach when communicating. Remember that you are speaking to an adult.

5. Find a quiet place to talk. If not, minimise or eliminate background noise (such as television, radio, other people).

6. Allow time for the person to understand what you say and to formulate his responses.

In Malaysia, we have a growing prevalence of stroke. It has been reported that six Malaysians experiencing a stroke EVERY hour, and about 52,000 Malaysians suffer a stroke annually.


After countless therapy sessions and the sheer hard work that she put in daily with the support of her loved ones, Sharon now enjoys communication, speaks confidently, and is actively giving back to society in her own way.

Albeit needing more time than others, she is now back on both the mobile and email network, is able to cook, read, and drive herself places (after having her car suitably modified).

If you suspect someone of having a possible stroke, act F.A.S.T.

F – Face: Ask them to smile and see if it's even.

A – Arms: Ask them to raise both arms and notice if one drops, or can't be raised equally well.

S – Speech: Ask them to repeat a sentence and note if it's perfect.

T – Time: Time is off the essence to prevent further damage, so get them to a hospital FAST.

If we have family members or colleagues at work who are at risk of having a stroke from an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, and a failure to control their hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, paste this reminder on your fridge or your office billboard. You may just give them a second chance at life.

> Pamela Thomas Joseph is a speech language pathologist and a member of the Malaysian Association of Speech Language & Hearing (MASH). She will be running a workshop for caregivers on September 24, 2011, in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. For details, contact Coreen at 013-3301728 or email her at coreen@trainingtrack.biz.

Testing options

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 04:50 PM PDT

The good and bad of screening tests.

PREVENTION is better than cure. This is an oft repeated advice from well-meaning friends. Yes, getting ill these days can be an expensive affair.

Some diseases can be prevented if we take the appropriate steps − immunisation, wearing safety helmets and practising a healthy lifestyle are good examples. This kind of prevention is also called "primary prevention". These methods of preventing the occurrence of disease in the first place are the best form of disease prevention.

What is screening?

For many of diseases, health professionals are still in the dark about the actual causes or the best ways of preventing them. Cancer is a good example. Many causes of cancer have been identified, but the best ways of preventing them from happening is still elusive.

Since we cannot prevent them from happening, is it possible to detect the cancer at an early stage when treatment is likely to be more effective? It does sound like a good idea if we can do that. In medical parlance, this is also a kind of prevention – we call this "secondary prevention", or screening.

The good

Screening aims to try and detect the disease at such an early stage before it causes symptoms or ill health. For example, using mammography (a special kind of breast X-ray), it may be possible to pick up a tiny cancerous breast lump that is not even detectable by the human hand. It is believed that treating the early breast cancer at this stage is easier and more effective (ie the cancer may be curable at this stage).

In the case of breast cancer, the screening test mentioned is mammography (an X-ray). In other cases, the screening test may be a clinical examination by a doctor, a blood test, or a clinical procedure.

The Pap smear is a clinical procedure that samples cells from the cervix of women with the aim of detecting cells that may indicate an increased risk of cancer of the cervix. By detecting the abnormal cells in the cervix (she does not have cancer yet), the affected woman can be treated, thus preventing her from getting cancer of the cervix.

Sometimes, screening can be a simple clinical examination by doctors or other healthcare practitioners.

Did you know that getting your blood pressure checked is also considered screening? High blood pressure hardly ever causes symptoms. If your blood pressure is consistently high (after several measurements), modifying your lifestyle or taking blood pressure pills will reduce your chances of getting bad outcomes such as heart attacks and strokes.

Screening can indeed be good for the health of the individual when the screening tests lead to the detection of serious health problems in the early stages and starting specific treatment to prevent the associated complications.

The bad

Since screening is capable of early detection of cancer and other dreadful diseases, is it always a good idea to go for screening? Well, the answer is a guarded yes. It all depends on the type of screening test and the specific diseases that the screening tests are aimed for.

A woman had a blood test called tumour marker CA19.9, which has been touted as a good screening test for cancer of the pancreas. Her CA19.9 level was slightly elevated. Despite extensive investigations such as CT scan of the abdomen and an invasive X-ray called ERCP, no cancer of the pancreas was found. She ended up spending lots of money and had to be subjected to tests that may be harmful to the body.

A smoker requests his doctor to do a chest X-ray to look for lung cancer. If his chest X-ray is normal, does it mean that he does not have lung cancer? Maybe not, as a chest X-ray can only pick up fairly advanced lung cancer, and it is not good enough to detect very early tumour.

The above two case scenarios point to some problems with screening tests: positive results do not always mean the person has the disease (this is called "false positive"), and negative results do not always mean the person does not have the disease (this is called "false negative").

What it means is that many screening tests that are in common use are actually not good enough. This problem has serious implications for the person requesting for screening because doctors may be forced to initiate a wild goose chase for a non-existing cancer.

And worse still, the person may be wrongly reassured because the screening test is "normal".

Breast self-examination has been promoted as a good way to detect breast lumps that may be cancerous.

However, studies in various parts of the world have shown that many women are unable to detect small breast lumps despite being taught the technique of breast self-examination.

Women who perform breast self-examination regularly are more likely to have a breast biopsy. Even if breast cancer is detected initially by self-examination, at the end, they did not really fare much better than women with breast cancer who did not do self-examination regularly.

Thus, in developed countries, breast self-examination is now not recommended since it does not do much good and may possible lead to potential harm (such as increasing the chances of needless breast biopsy and the associated anxiety).

What screening should we go for?

Despite the problem with screening tests, there is still a place for screening. The United States Preventive Services Task Force publishes recommendations on screening tests regularly.

In this report, the medical problems, type of screening tests, and the screening frequency are clearly identified. Some examples of useful screening tests are:

·All adults should have blood pressure checks.

·Adults with raised blood pressure should be checked for diabetes.

·Adults 35 years and above should have blood lipids checked regularly.

·Men and women 50 years and above should be checked for colon cancer.

·Sexually active women should have regular Pap smears.

·Women 50 years and above should have mammography once in two years.

·Pregnant women should have a HIV test.

As the frequency of medical problems vary from place to place, and may be altered by personal characteristics, do discuss whether you need screening (and for which disease) with your doctor. You doctor may recommend screening at a younger age for specific conditions if your family has a hereditary type of disease.

If you have certain risk factors (eg obesity, family history of heart attack), you may benefit from earlier checks for diabetes and blood lipids level.

Many of us have friends and relatives who have gone for "screening packages" that include a battery of tests. Not unusually, one or more of these tests may be abnormal and eventually may turn out to be erroneous or harmless. The tumour markers in particular is something that is seldom needed in a general medical checkup.

Screening tests should ideally be done after careful consideration of its benefits and potential harms.

> Dr C.L. Teng is a family physician at the IMU Specialist Clinic, International Medical University. He is also professor & head of the Department of Family Medicine, International Medical University. This article is contributed by The Star Health & Ageing Panel, which comprises a group of panellists who are not just opinion leaders in their respective fields of medical expertise, but have wide experience in medical health education for the public. The members of the panel include: Datuk Prof Dr Tan Hui Meng, consultant urologist; Dr Yap Piang Kian, consultant endocrinologist; Datuk Dr Azhari Rosman, consultant cardiologist; A/Prof Dr Philip Poi, consultant geriatrician; Dr Hew Fen Lee, consultant endocrinologist; Prof Dr Low Wah Yun, psychologist; Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist; Dr Lee Moon Keen, consultant neurologist; Dr Ting Hoon Chin, consultant dermatologist; Prof Khoo Ee Ming, primary care physician; Dr Ng Soo Chin, consultant haematologist. For more information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel provides this information for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel disclaims any and all liability for injury or other damages that could result from use of the information obtained from this article.

Getting to know lymphoma

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 04:48 PM PDT

September 15 marked the eighth anniversary of World Lymphoma Awareness Day. The event aims to increase public awareness on lymphoma, in terms of symptoms of the disease, diagnosis, and treatment modalities.

THE incidence of lymphoma is increasing, with one million people worldwide living with lymphoma and almost 1,000 patients diagnosed every day.

In Malaysia, according to the National Cancer Registry 2007, lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer among Malaysians and the sixth most common cancer in males, whereas in females, it is the eighth most common cancer.

The Chinese were found to have a higher incidence rate of lymphoma in comparison to Malays and Indians.

Even though it is one of the most common cancers diagnosed, there is still low public awareness on lymphoma compared to other cancers such as breast and lung cancer. The following is some pertinent information on lymphoma as shared by consultant haematologist Datuk Dr Vijaya Sangkar Jaganathan.

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is the general term for cancer of the lymphatic system, and it is one of the more common cancers that is faced by doctors worldwide every year. The lymphatic system is comprised of lymphatic vessels/tract and lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, chest, abdomen and groin.

Functionally, the lymphatics sieve and remove excess fluids from the body and play an important role in the immune system. The core lymphoma pathology is abnormal white cells called lymphocytes, which become cancer cells, multiply, and accumulate or infiltrate the lymph nodes.

Lymphomas are divided into two categories: Hodgkin's Disease (HD) and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL).

The main differentiating feature is from the microscopic description from a biopsied tissue sample, thus explaining the mandatory lymph node biopsy for an accurate diagnosis.

Generally NHL is more common than HD. Worldwide, the incidence is reported to be increasing either due to earlier detection or an absolute rise in incidence.

The need to differentiate the pathology has therapeutic implications since HD and NHL are treated with different types of medications, and generally have variable outcomes.

Risk factors

The exact risk factors or etiology for the development of lymphoma is essentially unknown, but people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, auto-immune disease and previous radiation exposure have a higher risk of developing this cancer.

Infections with Epstein Barr Virus have been noted to be a trigger factor in genetically prone persons. This however has not been consistently seen.

Some of the more common presenting clinical features in lymphoma patients are as follows:

·Enlarged and palpable lymph nodes, commonly in the neck, armpit and groin.

·Unexplained febrile illness.

·Loss of weight.

·Loss of appetite.

·Unexplained itch/pruritus.

·Chest tightness, swelling and breath difficulties.


The most important initial assessment is a thorough history and a complete physical examination, paying particular attention to other medical and surgical issues in the individual. Physical examination also aids in looking for the best possible site for lymph node biopsy, with minimal morbidities.

After a solid pathological diagnosis is achieved, the individual will have the following tests performed for completion of clinical staging and risk stratification:

·Blood test to determine organ function

·Imaging, commonly whole body CT scan and occasionally PET scan

·Bone marrow examination

The initial assessment will give the treating doctor a complete view of the disease, taking into account the stage of disease, co-morbidities, and prognostic factors. Such information is vital in designing a treatment plan.

One important lymphoma feature that is not used in many risk stratification guidelines is bulk of disease. The size of the lymph node does play a crucial role in determining treatment type, schedule and consolidation therapy.

Clinical trials are suggested to some eligible patients, but this pathway is not very well accepted in this country in comparison to many parts of the world where most of their patients are involved in ongoing clinical trials using newer modalities of treatment or therapeutic breakthrough.

However, in the past three to five years, many more of our patients have consented to be involved in clinical trials. This will enable doctors to understand the disease better and improve treatment outcomes.

The ultimate staging in lymphoma is not to be accepted as something dreadful, although we know that Stage I/II do better than III/IV; staging is used to determine the intensity of treatment and for consolidation therapy once treatment is completed.

Overview of treatment

Not all lymphomas need to be treated as soon as possible. This is true for low grade lymphoma such as limited stage follicular lymphoma. A small cohort of NHL can be treated with surgical and antibiotic therapy, but this is very infrequent.

Stage I or very limited stage Hodgkin's lymphoma can be solely treated with involved-field radiotherapy. A large majority of patients would require treatment, and they are generally grouped as follows:

·Cytotoxic chemotherapy.

·Targeted therapy using monoclonal antibodies.

·Combination chemo-immunotherapy.

·Stem cell transplantation, usually using autologous cells as a measure to consolidate treatment after the initial intensive chemotherapy to optimise long term outcomes. (Autologous means using the patients own stem cells after the disease is controlled.)

No two lymphomas will behave in the same way and this is because of the different disease biology, thus making interim assessment vital. For patients who demonstrate first line or second line chemotherapy resistance, the long term outcome is generally poor. Salvage therapy is sometimes advocated and if they do show chemosensitivity, than allogeneic (using a sibling or a matched unrelated person) stem cell transplantation can be performed.

Despite this, a significant cohort can still relapse.

Cure is possible in lymphomas when it is detected at an early stage or in very limited stage disease such as Stage I-II non bulky disease. Certainly, with current modalities of treatment, cure is seen in limited stage Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Low grade NHL is essentially non-curable, but adequate therapy can put a patient in long term remission. In comparison, high grade lymphomas are treated more aggressively, and in certain situations, upfront stem cell transplantation is advocated after a complete remission (a state of disease-free period) is achieved.

This decision is based on individual response, ie chemosensitivity, underlying medical fitness, level of tolerance to chemotherapy, and infection risk.

Can you prevent lymphoma?

Lymphoma is not a hereditary disease, and in general, nothing can be done to prevent you from getting this cancer as the cause or etiology is not clearly understood and it is probably related to underlying somatic mutation in a genetically prone person.

From his years of experience in managing lymphoma cases, Dr Vijaya highlighted some important points to consider when an individual is faced with lymphoma:

·Undergo complete assessment to get a good overall picture of disease.

·Be compliant to therapy.

·Do not take antioxidants during chemotherapy as this may technically protect cancer cells and make chemotherapy less effective.

·Increase fluid intake.

·Consume healthy and cooked food.

·Stay away from crowded areas to minimise infection risk.

·Do not consume herbal or any other traditional supplement as this may interact with conventional chemotherapy, making them either more toxic, or chemotherapy less effective.

> Some useful websites on NHL include www.lymphomacoalition.org; www.lymphoma-net.org; www.lymphoma.org.au; www.lymphomainfo.net.

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