Selasa, 20 September 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Israel says may hold Palestinian taxes on UN bid

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:47 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Tuesday threatened severe financial ramifications if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas makes good on a plan to request U.N. membership for a Palestinian state this week.

Steinitz, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said his government could stop collecting the 40 percent of the Palestinian Authority's budget through value added, excise and customs taxes.

"It is my view, there is no (Israeli) government decision, that if the Palestinians violated the very fundamentals of the peace agreement, we should reconsider delivering tax money to them," Steinitz said in an interview with Reuters.

Taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority total about 500 million Israeli shekels ($135 million) a month, Steinitz said.

Steinitz temporarily stopped the transfer of the tax revenues last spring.

The United States and Israel say a Palestinian state should emerge from peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, which would be impossible if the Palestinians declare a state on their own. Washington has pledged to veto such a Palestinian request at the U.N. Security Council.

If Abbas makes his unilateral declaration, Steinitz said he hoped the attempt would fail, and he questioned whether the PA could run a stable state in which donations and international aid make up 40 percent of the budget.

"We are worried because of what we saw in Gaza," he said, referring to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory six years ago, after which the Islamist group Hamas took over within two years.

The United States contributes $500 million in financial support annually to the PA. Some U.S. politicians have said they will try to cut American aid to the Palestinians if they refuse to back down.

Palestinian Monetary Authority Governor Jihad al-Wazir told Reuters on Monday that if the United States were to withdraw its aid, it could destabilize the PA.

"Really, the risk of a PA collapse is very real under the financial strain, without U.S. assistance, without donor assistance in general," he said.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

G8 wants quick Arab Spring transition, eyes reforms

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:46 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Group of Eight foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to quickly supply economic and political aid to five Arab governments in return for commitments they would pursue democratic reforms.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe chairs a G8 Deauville Partnership Ministerial Meeting in New York September 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Emmanuel Dunand/Pool)

The so-called Deauville partnership, which also includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey as well as international organizations such the International Monetary Fund, has so far pledged about $80 billion in financing to Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan over the next two years.

Speaking after meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, said the partnership would need to be "genuine, comprehensive and immediately operational" for it to succeed.

"The transition and reforms must be carried out by the countries that are in the partnership," he said.

The Deauville initiative was set up under France's G8 presidency to help countries swept up in the "Arab Spring" foster democratic reforms by making aid and development credits conditional on political and economic reforms.

"It offers tremendous hope for democracy, rule of law, stability, peace and a better future, but it also harbors risks," Juppe said. "If reform is too long in coming then there is the threat of extremism."

Each of the countries submitted their plan of action, which will focus on strengthening the rule of law, supporting civil societies, developing education, speeding up economic development and enhancing the countries' regional and global integration.

Libya has now also been brought into the partnership, although it will not benefit from financial assistance for now after some of the country's frozen assets were unblocked.

International financial institutions have warned of the challenges faced by Arab Spring countries trying to tap external finance while faced with high-risk perceptions and social and financial strains at home.

Officials have called for enhanced access to developed country markets for North African and Middle Eastern products and labor to avoid aid dependency and help build up the private sector.

"Our people have high hopes and need to see results on the ground," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.

Juppe said the Deauville program would be enduring and aim to include as much of the international community as possible. Progress would be monitored on a regular basis by G8 foreign and finance ministers.

"Each situation is a separate case and it's up to each of the countries to define their action plan," Juppe said. "We are not here to impose on them."

The ministers will next take stock of developments in the region at a summit in Kuwait in November followed by an official meeting of the Deauville partners when the United States becomes chair of the G8 next year.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Syrian forces kill seven in raids, two police shot

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:46 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian forces killed seven civilians on Tuesday in raids near Damascus and in Homs province, activists said, both centres of an uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

People protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in the city of Homs September 16, 2011. The banners read: "The deaf and the blind devil" (C) and "Step down devil" (R). Picture taken September 16, 2011. (REUTERS/Handout)

Armed groups also shot dead two members of the security forces, state media and an activists group reported.

In a separate incident, troops defused a bomb planted under a crude oil pipeline near the city of Homs, state news agency SANA said.

President Assad has responded to six months of unrest with a military crackdown in which the United Nations says 2,700 people have died, including 100 children.

Tens of thousands of people have also been arrested, activists say, and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Monday Syrian leaders would have to answer for crimes against humanity that he said were being committed in Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Tuesday on the need to increase pressure on Assad to stop the crackdown, the White House said.

Assad, who succeeded his father 11 years ago, has said he is resisting a foreign conspiracy to divide Syria and the use of force has been limited.

For graphic on violence click

Most of Monday's killings occurred in the city of Homs, 165 km north of Damascus, and in the surrounding countryside, residents and activists told Reuters.

Locals say the military has stepped up operations in the area in recent weeks after an increasing number of army defections.

"Defections have not reached a level that threatens Assad, but he cannot rely on most of the army. Otherwise he would not have had to use the same loyalist core troops again and again to crush protests and move them from one city to another," a European diplomat said.

"It is clear that the security solution he has chosen is losing him support by the day from the Sunni majority," the diplomat said.

Most of the army's rank and file soldiers are Sunni Muslims, but they are largely commanded by officers from Assad's minority Alawite sect.

Defecting soldiers in the town of Rastan, 20 km north of Homs, this month announced the formation of a battalion called "Khaled bin al-Walid", after an Arab Muslim commander who conquered Syria.

Troops killed a woman and a boy in Rastan on Tuesday and fired machineguns late into the night, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain.

Police killed two people in Kiswa, a town just south of Damascus, said a posting on Facebook, purporting to come from town residents.

Officers fired rifles from rooftops and patrolled streets with pickup trucks armed with machineguns, firing randomly, while houses were raided, the posting said.

A resident of Homs, who gave his name as Fares, said more barricades and checkpoints manned by troops and gunmen loyal to Assad had been set up in densely populated central districts on the outskirts of the city in the last 24 hours.

That followed large demonstrations on Monday and fighting between army defectors and Assad loyalists in the countryside, during which two deserters were killed.

Other killings were reported in Homs and surrounding rural areas.

In the northwestern Jabal al-Zawiya, a region near Turkey where army defectors had also taken refuge, a policeman was shot dead by unidentified gunmen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

State news agency SANA said a member of the security forces was shot dead by an "armed terrorist group" in Homs. It said three others were wounded.


Despite their resilience in the face of Assad's crackdown, Syria's opposition movement has struggled to close ranks and create a unified platform for protesters.

But last week opposition figures meeting in Istanbul took a major step towards bridging their differences when they announced the formation of a Syrian National Council.

That body won the important backing on Tuesday of the Local Coordination Committees, a grassroots activist group at the centre of the protest movement. "We support the SNC out of our commitment to unify the opposition and to eliminate the opposition's fragmentation," the LCC said.

Activists and diplomats say protests in Syria have been overwhelmingly peaceful, but there have been increasing reports of attacks on security forces by gunmen and clashes with army deserters.

Authorities say 700 soldiers and police have been killed, and the same number of "mutineers".

SANA said army engineering units dismantled a bomb containing 25 kg of explosive which had been placed under a pipeline delivering crude oil to Homs refinery.

In late July Syria said saboteurs blew up an oil export pipeline linking Syria's oil-fields to the Mediterranean.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Louise Ireland and Andrew Heavens)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Downton Abbey - In a class of its own

Posted: 21 Sep 2011 04:19 AM PDT

Award-winning British miniseries Downton Abbey is a multi-tiered cake that oozes an intense flavour with every bite.

THERE is something innately charming about English period dramas. From haughty accents to class divisions, the rigid formalities of the age-old culture remain an object of stubborn fascination.

British miniseries Downton Abbey serves all that on a sparkly silver platter. The period piece, which has enjoyed high ratings in both Britain and the United States, offers delectable bites of stiff upper lip type drama that the British are famous for.

It opens with the lives of those living in the fictional Downton Abbey, an estate owned by Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville). From the valet, to the housekeeper and a very handsome, if sullen-looking footman – we are thrust into a domain where everybody knows their place just seconds after the pilot unfolds. They even have someone to iron the newspapers.

Alas, the morning post brings distressing news that the Titanic has sunk. Here, we begin to learn the inflexible details of the estate's centuries old "entail" agreement, which legally requires that the manor, the land, the village and the family fortunes may only be passed down to a male heir, who along with the heir's son, was aboard the Titanic.

The problem is, while the Earl had saved Downton from financial ruin before in the late 19th century when he married Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), a wealthy American heiress who brought her fortune with her, he has no sons.

Now, true to the pre-feminist Edwardian era, the estate is entailed to pass over the heads of his three grown daughters – Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), his eldest and the loveliest of the sisters.

Lady Mary was to marry one of the cousins who perished in the Titanic. Intrigue and desperation engulf the clan after it is discovered that the sunken ship has taken all their possible male heirs with it. In comes a distant cousin, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stephens), an attorney from Manchester who lives with his widowed mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton).

Insisting on tradition and the letter of the law, the noble Earl brings them to Downton Abbey to gauge whether the young man is up to inheriting the estate and its varying sets of never-ending problems.

Here is where the stuffy practices of age-old English aristocracy come in full force. The family, especially the dowager countess, Violet (Maggie Smith), mocks the fact that Matthew actually works for a living and that his late father was a doctor. "What is a 'weekend'?" the dowager asks, with snotty disdain.

Mega-talented Smith yields the same likability she exuded as the super-strict Professional McGonagall in the Harry Potter series. But unlike the mother figure she plays in the films, in Downton Abbey Smith is a shrewd, sniveling, manipulative, I'm-better-than-you money-grubber.

However, with the estate at stake, everyone in the house is hoping that Matthew will fall in love with Lady Mary, which would provide the ideal solution. But of course, playing by the tradition of English drama series, (a la Pride And Prejudice) Matthew and Mary just can't seem to get along, even if the chemistry between them alludes otherwise.

Beneath the stairs, the house's help is equally fascinating. Perhaps the most outstanding of the lot is Bates (Brendan Coyle), a newly-hired valet with a marked limp. Bates upsets the ambitious and conniving footman Thomas (Rob James-Collier), when he is passed over for the position of the valet.

On Thomas' side is his equally grim protector, the lady's maid O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) who lurks around a lot and is all kinds of nasty. Mrs Patsmore (Lesley Nicol), a cook who eats her feelings and the bumbling young kitchen maid, Daisy (Sophie McShera), who has a very obvious crush on Thomas without realising his true character, also make up some zesty key ingredients for the perfectly well-brewed drama.

Naturally, the series is an exploration of the class system still inherent in modern English society. The irony is that both masters and servants grapple with the same unsettling sense of repression and quiet desperation underneath their seemingly placid facades.

I have never been a fan of period dramas, but Downton Abbey stacks up like a multi-tiered cake that oozes an intense flavour with every bite. It is not always as pleasant as it is addictive, but there is nothing to stop me from going back for more.

Downton Abbey, which won four awards at the Primetime Emmy Awards last Sunday, airs on Diva (Astro Channel 702) on Thursdays at 11pm.

Rewarding search

Posted: 21 Sep 2011 04:14 AM PDT

Join in the hunt for the Red FM Runaway DJs and stand a chance to win a car.

FOR days, they have been hunted like prey, pursued and trailed to various locations, yet Red FM's Runaway DJs have never been more thrilled to have been captured!

It's an exciting hunt that has listeners searching all around town as they follow the clues being given on air and online. With a key to give away that would lead to the ultimate grand prize, participants are racing to be the first person to reach the correct location and identify Red FM's Runaway DJs. Only one key will unlock the door to a brand new Proton Inspira. To top it off, there are also cash and gadgets to give away.

For Prabakar Murugiah, he found out just how rewarding the search was as he tracked down Red FM's Runaway DJ of the day in Subang, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The engineer deciphered the clues on his own and not only did he walk away with a key in addition to cash, he also picked up an iPad2 for his efforts. A fan of the Proton Inspira, he is optimistic about his chances of winning the car in the finale.

Another delighted winner, Chong Chow Hoong, managed to track down Red FM's Runaway DJs to Cheras in Kuala Lumpur with the help of her 10-year-old son. Following hints given on air and online, she picked up cash and a key to put her in the running to drive away with the ultimate grand prize.

Tune in as well as check out Red FM's Facebook Fan page and Twitter every weekdays for clues to the latest location. With the contest ending on Sept 29, you only have a limited time to join in the hunt and pick up a key to the finale.

And if you are unable to join the deejays on the run, Red FM will bring you the fun as you get the chance to win your share of the goodies just by going online. Log on to Red FM's Facebook page ( and follow the steps. Add the Red FM Badge to your profile picture and you could pick up an iPod Nano.

To find out more details, log on to Also, join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page and follow them on Twitter (@iloveredfm) for the latest updates.

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

Red FM's station frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1 FM; George Town and Seberang Prai: 107.6 FM; Ipoh, Perak: 106.4 FM; Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9 FM; Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6 FM; Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9 FM; Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8 FM.

Comedy based on mobster Whitey Bulger headed to TV

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:08 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: A comedy based around recently apprehended mobster Whitey Bulger is one step closer to the small screen.

Fox has purchased a project from former ''Seinfeld'' writer-producer Peter Mehlman, about a young couple who unwittingly live next door to a murderer, Mehlman told TheWrap on Tuesday.

Though the half-hour, multiple-camera comedy will not literally feature Bulger as a character, Mehlman told TheWrap in August that the pilot was inspired by the fact that Bulger, 82, was found living a life of leisure in Santa Monica, California, in June by the FBI after a decades-long manhunt.

''I can't imagine how many times I walked past him,'' Mehlman said. ''They had a dog and walked it in Palisades Park. I walked [my dog] Izzy there every night at sunset. I probably saw him 50 times - and he has 19 murders under his belt, allegedly.''

Mehlman told TheWrap that John Malkovich is at the top of his dream-casting list for the role.

Bulger will also be the subject of a film from Brookstreet Pictures, based on the book ''Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob.'' Peter Facinelli and Robert DeFranco are producing.


The Star Online: Sports

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Setting the track ablaze at the Malaysian Grand Prix

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:23 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The penultimate round of the MotoGP world championships at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) from Oct 21-23 is set to become a tantalising affair.

The Shell Advance Malaysian MotoGP will see title favourite Casey Stoner, who currently holds a 44-point lead over defending champion Jorge Lorenzo, battle for the crown he once had in 2007.

With two more rounds in Japan and Australia – before the bikes come to the Sepang International Circuit, hope is still alive for Lorenzo, making it a potential thriller for racing fans in Sepang.

While the main draw of MotoGP challenge is certain to set the tracks ablaze, it will be a huge day for Malaysian fans as they will see four local riders on the starting grid this year.

Besides Mohd Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who has performed beyong expectations in the 125cc class with 20 points to sit 16th in the standings under the Air Aisa-SIC-Ajo banner, there will be another youngster riding under the same category at Sepang under the wild card entry.

Eighteen-year-old Muhammad Farid Badrul Hisham has been selected to ride in the 125cc class after his fine achievement in the Malaysian Super Series (MSS) SuperSports junior category last year.

"We have chosen Farid because he has been continuously racing throughout the year, especially in the British Superbike Championships," said SIC chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali.

"We choose to put Farid in the 125cc class because we want the rider we picked to start at the lower tier of this world class competition.

"Although everybody knows that the 125cc class will be replaced with the Moto3 which uses a different bike and engine capacity, it would be pointless if the rider can't prove himself by racing in the lowest tier."

Another two Malaysian riders will race in the Moto2 class with selection to be held next week. Last year, Mohd Zamri Baba was the sole Malaysian rider in the Moto2 race.

Last year, a record attendance of 105,000 flocked to the circuit and SIC chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir expects the number to increase this year.

"This is the 21st edition of the race in Malaysia and we expect more fans this year. With ticket prices as low as RM15 for a day, Malaysian fans would not want to miss the excitement, especially when they get to see four Malaysian riders in action," he said.

Tickets can be purchased at Lot 10 shopping centre or log on to
Tickets can also be purchased through SIC's facebook page at

Deedat excited about Malaysian Open debut

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:21 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: With the Malaysian Open ATP 250 tennis championship set to begin this weekend, Malaysian youngster Ahmed Deedat Abdul Razak can hardly contain his excitement as he will be making his debut in one of the biggest tennis competition in Asia.

The 16-year-old Deedat is one of three Malaysian players who have been given the local wildcard entry for the qualifying round of the singles event, the others being national No. 1 Si Yew Ming and Ariez Elyaas Deen Heshaam.

For the little known Deedat, the chance to play in the Malaysian Open may come as a pleasant surprise to him but in truth his inclusion in the tournament is just reward for his hard work and good performance.

The lanky Deedat dished out stellar performances for Malaysia in the junior and men's Davis Cup tournaments and has been touted as the rising star of Malaysian tennis.

He was also once ranked as high as third in the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) Under-14 circuit.

"I am really excited at the chance to play because this is my first time participating in an ATP event," said Deedat who idolised former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero while growing up.

"I picked up tennis when I was just eight years old, playing for fun with my dad and I've found it to be very interesting indeed."

"After that I slowly got more serious in the sport and I hope to continue playing tennis for a long time to come."

"There isn't really a target for me in the Malaysian Open as I'm just happy to play."

"Hopefully I'll be able to hold my serve against my opponent as that should be the easiest thing to do and play well," added Deedat.

The Malaysian Open is one of only five World Tour stops in Asia and carries a total prize money of US$947,750 (RM2.9 mil). It will feature a 28-player singles main draw and 16 doubles pairs with the qualifying round for singles starting this Saturday.

Defending champion Mikhail Youzhny of Russia will be back in action and the other top stars include world No. 9 Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, world No. 12 Nicolas Almagro of Spain and Serbians Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki.

Tickets are on sale for as low as RM10 with an Ipad 2 to be given out every day for lucky fans in the catch-the-ball promotion.

Italy keep quarter-final hopes alive by hammering Russia in their biggest win

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:19 PM PDT


ITALY hammered debutants Russia 53-17 yesterday to keep their World Cup hopes alive with their biggest ever win in the tournament.

The Six Nations team raced out of the blocks with six tries in the first half before Russia, who celebrated their historic first ever World Cup tries, recovered with a vastly improved second period.

The bonus–point win keeps Italy in the running for the quarter–finals despite their opening loss to Australia, with a crunch encounter with Ireland looming on Oct 2.

"We started the game very well, the first half I was very happy with," said Italy's South African coach, Nick Mallet.

"And then we got a bit loose and I made a lot of changes. But give them credit, they played some very nice, attacking rugby, held on to the ball and ran at us.

"So I was very relieved that we dominated the first phases as much as we did because if they had too much more ball it might have been a bit more difficult for us."

Italy's scrum savaged the Russian forwards in the first half and they capitalised on a host of errors as captain Sergio Parisse surged through a gap in the defence to open the scoring on six minutes.

Winger Giulio Toniolatti then scored twice in 10 minutes either side of a try by Tommaso Benvenuti, who pounced when a loose ball slid under the diving body of the last Russian defender.

Italy were awarded a penalty try when their forwards crushed the Russian scrum but they suffered a blow when Fabio Ongaro was sin–binned for a thumping, shoulder–first collision which laid out fullback Igor Klyuchnikov.

And Russia took full advantage when replacement scrum–half Alexander Yanyushkin darted through for an unorthodox, over–the–head score after landing on his back in the tackle – the country's first ever try at the World Cup.

Gori crossed just before half–time to make it 38-7 at the break and Benvenuti grabbed his second eight minutes into the second period, but Russia were not done and Vladimir Ostroushko motored over on the right to keep the scores at 43-12.

Australian–born Luke McLean got Italy's eighth try on 64 minutes but Alexey Makovetskiy received a looping cut–out pass in acres of space on the right to raise Russian hopes of a bonus–point fourth try.

However, it were Italy who would have the final say when flanker Alessandro Zanni flattened two defenders to score in the 75th minute.

"Our play wasn't so good tonight but I'm glad that we had some tries," said Russian captain Vladislav Korshunov. "These are the first tries by the Russian team in this tournament."

Italy have never reached the World Cup quarter–finals in six previous attempts. Their largest victory before Tuesday had been their 31-5 win over Portugal in 2007.

Italy now play the United States next week while Russia face Ireland on Sunday. – AFP


The Star Online: Business

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New Zealand's annual current account deficit widens

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 05:38 PM PDT

WELLINGTON, Sept 21 (Reuters) New Zealand's annual current account deficit widened in the second quarter, driven by a large overseas investment deficit and less tourist spending, official data showed on Wednesday.

The deficit for the year to June 30 widened to NZ$7.47 billion ($6.2 billion) from a revised deficit of NZ$7.20 billion in the previous quarter, equating to 3.7 percent of GDP compared with the forecast of 4.0 percent of GDP in a Reuters poll.

There were significant revisions to previous data after the official statistics agency expanded its make up of the international investment position, which reduced New Zealand's foreign liabilities and increased its overseas earnings.

However, the current account deficit, which hit a 21 year low of 2.5 percent of GDP early last year, is expected to worsen further as the economy picks up and demand for imports rises.

"Over the next 18 months, we expect a further deterioration as the 'mix' of growth becomes less favourable for external imbalance improvement," said Goldman Sachs economist Philip Borkin.

The New Zealand dollar bobbled around after the data, settling around $0.8210/15 from about $0.8220 before the data. Interest rate futures were unmoved.

The data does not normally affect the monetary stance of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ), which has held its cash rate at a record low 2.5 percent since a 50 basis point cut in March to cushion the economy after the Christchurch earthquake. The bank, aided by an improving domestic economy, has said it is ready to raise rates when global risks subside.

The latest Reuters poll has 10 of 18 analysts expecting the first RBNZ rate move in 2012, with the rest sticking with a start this October or December.

Market pricing implies a 10 percent chance of a hike next month, with 48 basis points of tightening over the next 12 months unchanged from last week.

The current account deficit in the June quarter returned to a deficit of 921 million from a surplus of NZ$90 million surplus in March. That was revised from a deficit of NZ$97 million.

The annual balance showed steady trade surplus, while investment deficit the gap between earnings for foreign investors in New Zealand, and the country's foreign investments narrowed slightly to NZ$9.7 billion from NZ$9.78 billion.

The services deficit widened slightly for the year as tourism receipts fell because of the earthquake. The capital account posted a surplus of NZ$12.2 billion, after quake insurance payments boosted the March quarter surplus to NZ$8.4 billion.

The central bank has forecast the annual current account gap to rise to 5.4 percent of GDP by March 2014 as the economy returns to normal growth, increasing imports and investment earnings for foreigners.

New Zealand's chronic current account deficit has been a long standing concern for ratings agencies, more so recently because of the heightened global sensitivity to debt.

"While New Zealand's external vulnerabilities have not been revised away, at the margin the revisions should be welcome news for credit rating agencies," said

ANZNational Bank's head of market economics, Khoon Goh. Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings have both kept their outlook for New Zealand's credit ratings on negative watch because of concerns about the high foreign debt levels.

Because of low levels of household savings and overspending, New Zealand has relied heavily on foreign borrowing.

New Zealand's net foreign liabilities, measured by international investment positions rose to 70 percent of GDP from a downwardly revised 68.7 percent in the previous quarter and from a peak 84.6 percent at March 2009.

By comparison Australia's level is around 60 percent. ($1=NZ$1.21)

Japan Aug exports rise 2.8 pct yr/yr

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 05:33 PM PDT

TOKYO, Sept 21 (Reuters) Japan's exports in August posted their first annual increase since the March 11 earthquake as companies restored damaged supply chains, but export growth missed expectations as sovereign debt woes threaten the global economy.


Exports rose 2.8 percent in August from a year earlier, compared with a median forecast for an 8.0 percent annual increase, Ministry of Finance data showed.

Compared to the previous month, exports rose 0.3 percent.

Imports rose 19.2 percent in the year to August, more than the median estimate for a 14.0 percent annual rise.

The nation's trade balance registered a deficit of 775.3 billion yen ($10.1 billion), versus the median forecast for a 218.8 billion yen deficit.

Shipments to China rose an annual 2.4 percent while those to the United States rose 3.5 percent.



"Growth in exports was slower than expected. The recovery in auto exports seems to be losing momentum, and electronics exports were not so good either, with inventory adjustments going on globally.

"Another negative factor is the firmer yen. With the yen's appreciation and power supply constraints, more factories could move overseas, putting a cap on Japan's exports.

"Japan is counting on reconstructionrelated demand and exports for its economic recovery. But exports may not be as strong as expected in the months to come, and that could be a factor that pushes Japan's monetary policy in the direction of further easing, although I don't expect this piece of data alone to have an immediate impact on the policy front."


"Things are improving but the pace is quite slow. The global economy was slowing and we saw some weak signs from other Asian economies.

"From here on, worries about Europe's sovereign debt woes could lead to stock market declines, which could hurt consumer spending overseas. The strong yen is having some impact on the value of exports.

"The government's strong yen package won't have an impact on the markets. It also won't have much impact on the economy in the short term. It is trying to address more longterm problems.

"The Fed decision could be priced into markets, but if it feeds into expectations that the global economy could reach a bottom, this could help the yen stop rising. "Japan's economy could still grow based on overseas demand, but part of the precondition for that is that Europe solves its economic problems."


"The impact of the slowing global economy is starting to become visible in Japan's export figures while the effect of the recovery in output after the March disaster has run its course.

"In coming months, exports may go back to posting yearonyear declines, meaning the economy will have no sufficient support factor unless the government quickly implements reconstruction spending.

"There is also a possibility the yen will strengthen further on the outcome of the FOMC meeting today. Companies are likely to have no choice but to raise prices abroad in the near term to cope with a strong yen, which could cause declines in export volumes."


Economists say Japan is likely to resume growing in the third quarter after three consecutive quarters of contraction, boosted by a rapid recovery in supply chains following the March 11 earthquake, but the outlook further ahead looks increasingly in doubt due to a strong yen and Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

Europe's woes, weak economic growth in other advanced countries and moderating growth in emerging markets top the agenda for a Group of 20 finance ministers' meeting this week.

Japan is trying to recover from its worst crisis since World War Two after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated its northeast coast and triggered radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. ($1 = 76.450 Japanese Yen)

UBS chief still confident of board support despite trading loss

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 05:29 PM PDT

SINGAPORE, Sept 21 (Reuters) UBS chief executive Oswald Gruebel said on Wednesday he still has support from the Swiss bank's board of directors, after unauthorized trading caused a $2.3 billion loss.

Arriving in Singapore for meetings with the bank's management and board, he laughed when asked by reporters at his hotel if he still had the board's backing and said, "Yes... always,".

Gruebel is expected to ask the Swiss bank's board to back plans for a radical overhaul of investment banking under his leadership at a meeting in Singapore.

The bank's executive board was due to meet on Wednesday at their main offices in the city's business district before its wider set of board members meet later in the week.

This is one of the four regular meetings it holds every year and strategic changes to the investment bank are on the agenda, said several sources with direct knowledge of the plans.

Alexander WilmotSitwell, the bank's AsiaPacific cochairman and cochief, told reporters outside UBS's office that this was a normal regular meeting.

The trading loss is a heavy blow to the reputation of Switzerland's biggest bank, which had just started to recover after its near collapse during the financial crisis and a damaging U.S. investigation into its aiding wealthy Americans to dodge taxes.


UBS is already under pressure to scale down, ringfence or even split off its risky investment banking business from its core wealth management unit in order to shield private clients.

But a source at the bank told Reuters that the board will not be rushed into dumping the investment bank following the rogue trades.

The bank's biggest shareholder, Singaporebased sovereign wealth fund GIC, said on Tuesday it had discussed the alleged fraud with UBS management, adding it was disappointed by the case and urged UBS to take "firm" action to restore confidence.

GIC, which has a 6.4 percent stake in UBS and has lost about 77 percent of its 11 billion Swiss franc investment in the bank, said it had sought details on how UBS was tightening controls.

Gruebel said on Sunday he would "bear the consequences" of the trading loss that was discovered last week but did not want to quit, adding the affair would influence the future strategy of the investment bank.

The bank's meeting in Singapore coincides with the city state hosting the Formula One Grand Prix, of which UBS is a major sponsor.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Bow to the Bao

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 02:08 AM PDT

Emmy Awards: Who won what

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 02:04 AM PDT


The Star Online: Nation

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Man found with gunshot wound and limbs tied in hotel

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:14 AM PDT

SUNGAI PETANI: A 35-year-old man was found with a gunshot wound in his head and both his legs and hands bound inside a hotel room in Taman Sejati here.

Mohd Nazir Ishak's assailants had used his shirt to tie his hands and legs. It is learnt that the victim from Perlis was shot once in the head.

State CID chief ACP Mohd Zakaria Ahmad said a hotel staff who had entered to clean the room located on the third floor, discovered the body which was on the bed covered in blood.

"Hotel records showed he registered alone and was supposed to check out this afternoon," he told reporters.

"We do not dismiss the possibility that the victim, who was only wearing trousers, was attacked by people he knew," he said. BERNAMA

Mat Sabu arrested over alleged Bukit Kepong remarks

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:42 AM PDT

Published: Tuesday September 20, 2011 MYT 9:10:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday September 20, 2011 MYT 9:42:50 PM

GEORGE TOWN: PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu has been arrested by police in connection with his alleged remarks on the Bukit Kepong incident.

Mohamad, or Mat Sabu, had voluntarily gone to the state police headquarters at 8.30pm before he was detained.

He was released on bail at 9.05pm.

Mat Sabu is expected to be charged for criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code on Wednesday.

Related Stories:
Mat Sabu expected to be charged Wednesday over Bkt Kepong remarks
Utusan sued over Bukit Kepong issue

Nazri to meet PM over land acquisition for Klang Valley MRT

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 05:52 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz is to meet the on Wednesday over the acquisition of land in Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang line of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).

He said he would also talk to Syarikat Prasarana Sdn Bhd, which was undertaking the project, to consider several matters including an alternative route before any acquisition.

He was speaking to reporters after a dialogue with the Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia (Hua Zong) on the matter.

Several property owners, historians and Chinese cultural activists had objected to the acquisition of land in Jalan Sultan for the project, saying it would involve tearing down heritage buildings more than 100 years old.

On new security laws to replace the Internal Security Act, Nazri said they would focus on terrorism, race and religious issues.

He said the new laws would not be repressive as the prime minister had promised meaningful reforms to the country's preventive laws.

"But these laws must comply with two fundamental issues that no one can be arrested on differences in political ideologies and extended detention can only be approve through the courts. These are the two safeguards," he said.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Pop culture: Some things shouldn’t be missed

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 07:09 PM PDT

Heidi Klum says in reality series Project Runway: "One day you're in and the next you're out." Likewise, in pop culture, what's in or cool today is yesterday's news tomorrow.

In recent years, people may have been talking about flash mobs, netbooks and Lost the TV series but they have since moved on to new obsessions like planking, tablet computers and Glee.

And so the cover story of the latest issue of Galaxie magazine brings readers up to speed on what they need to know about pop culture today, from A for Angry Birds to Z for Zombies and everything in between, including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Hallyu (also known as the Korean wave).

Also in the Sept 16 to 30 issue, Galaxie gets Adam Levine to give the lowdown on his new hit reality TV show The Voice and Neon Trees talk about taking a more soulful approach to their music for their next album.

A 10-page special songwords pullout also awaits music lovers in this issue, featuring all the words to hit songs like Cheers (Drink To That), Love You Like A Love Song, Stereo Hearts, Lighters and Pumped Up Kicks.

What's more, there's a chance to win Westlife concert tickets, Il Volo autographed CDs and Apollo 18 tool kits in the same issue. All this plus the juiciest goss from the East and the West, Seven awesome posters (including a Breaking Dawn centrefold) and the essential details on the newest movie and music releases, makes this a not-to-be-missed magazine!

Galaxie, which is owned by Star Publications (M) Bhd, also has a presence online at, which is packed with celebrity news and views. For even more updates on the magazine, its blog and the entertainment world, follow Galaxie on Twitter (@galaxiemag) and visit its Facebook page ( – Evelyn Teo


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Hun Sosheak shows artistic side on human canvas

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 07:13 PM PDT

Artist Hun Sosheak derives pleasure from seeing his work on living human canvasses.

PERMANENCE has no place in Hun Sopheak's work. At most, his paintings will only last for two days, after which a good scrub with soap and water washes everything down the drain. But the body artist who uses an airbrush in his work doesn't mind. Beauty, says this 27-year-old Cambodian native, is better appreciated when it's fleeting.

Anything that's labelled everlasting tends to bore after a while. Hun's viewpoint is a reflection of his own life, which he compares to the changing panorama of his human canvasses.

"I still have vivid memories of gun and bomb explosions at the police station compound where we used to live. When I was four years old, shrapnel from ricocheting bullets got embedded in my mother's leg. At that time, she was part of the Unicef team and had been posted to a 'hard spot'," says Hun, describing his early childhood in Battambang.

Hun, who was then living with his father, a propaganda cartoonist with the Cambodian police force, was spared the turmoil but this was a time when the childhood game of "police and thieves" were played with real AK47s.

"There was a pile of damaged guns lying on the scrap heap in the compound and the children promptly found a way to put them to creative use," says Hun.

His move to Malaysia came about at age eight after his mother met a Malaysian soldier while working as a clerk at the United Nations office in Battambang.

"There were no child custody tussles between my parents when my mother made her decision to take me and my sister to Malaysia. My father told us that Malaysia would be a better place for us, and we would have better opportunities and he let us go," says Hun who got his first view of Malaysia at Kem Penrissen in Kuching, following his stepfather's posting to Sarawak.

As for his relationship with his stepfather, Hun would describe it as: "We don't talk except when it's really necessary."

Instead, he is insists that he is closer to his biological father, where a young Hun would spend hours watching the elder bring his cartoons to life before his parents split. Still, there are inklings that some form of endearment does exist between son and stepfather because on Hun's 13th birthday, the sergeant personally handed him a ream of A4 paper in recognition of the young boy's burgeoning artistic talent.

At this time, Hun's artistic leaning would show itself in his school textbooks where his doodling of Bruce Lee and Ultraman caught the attention of fellow doodlers at Sek Ren Major General Dato Ibrahim, Kuching.

"I always got good marks in art and I remember by age 12, I was selling my art work for RM5 a piece to friends. Business was brisk during the exam season. Once we had to draw underwater scenes. I drew about six pieces for my friends, changing the position of the fishes and seaweed, and they passed it up as their own. I think my art teacher, a fierce Iban lady, knew what was going on but she kept quiet," he explains.

The school years saw Hun at his most prolific. At age 13, he found himself giving art classes to a fourth former, teaching the older boy how to draw flowers and comic characters with crayons and water colours, earning RM100 for two weeks' work. He made hundreds of sketches and among his "bestsellers" were those of female nudes which found ready buyers among his teenage friends, much to the chagrin of his art teachers.

"There were two art teachers in my school who often found themselves at loggerheads over my work. Once when we were given free rein to choose a subject for our sketching exercise, I chose to do a pencil rendition of the middle finger. One complained that I was just being rude. The other came to my defence, saying that it was art," he recalls.

When Hun turned 17, the family moved to Kelantan where he spent the first few months trying to adjust to a new lifestyle.

"Where we were in Sarawak, people were very open-minded and there was a very good sense of camaraderie. In Kelantan, it was very different, not because it was a new place, but my sister Sophea had a bad experience when bad words were uttered to her because she didn't want to cover her hair. That was something that affected me very deeply but we had to adjust for my stepfather's sake."

The only positive thing that came out of his time in Kelantan was a stint at a batik factory during Form 5 at Sek Men Pengkalan Chepa in Kota Baru. This would have been a fantastic springboard for Hun but he found the tedious process involved in batik printing not suited to his character at all.

"You know what they say about the younger generation thriving on instant gratification? Well, I belong to that generation," says Hun unabashedly. But working with the canting, the wax pen used in batik drawing, formed the basis for his migration from pencil to airbrush. "I learned about control," he says.

After secondary school, Hun came to Kuala Lumpur to seek out the bright lights and found employment in a car spray workshop in Gombak in 2001.

"I was in the right place at the right time because this was when airbrush work was becoming popular and I was in luck because I was the only worker there who could draw well. That was how I ended up handling the artwork for customers who wanted to personalise their cars, motorbikes and helmets," says Hun.

After four months, Hun decided that it was time to strike out on his own. Using MySpace and Facebook as his main mode of advertising, he soon made a name for himself among the scooter clubs and kit car fraternity.

The canvas transition from metal to human came about in 2009 when a photographer friend urged Hun to give one of his models a "paint job", to liven up a drab portfolio.

"My first model was a girl named Farha and I came up with the concept of an organic robot arm for her. When I posted these images on Facebook it got a lot of attention.

This snowballed into something else when one of my friends, a tattoo artist, referred me to a production house who then called me up to enquire if I could give one of their actors an impermanent tattoo. Of course, I said yes," he says.

To date, Hun has put his mark on models, actors and actresses including famous personalities like Ramli Ibrahim, the Malaysian Indian classical dancer, and Nicholas Tse, the Hong Kong actor. And yes, they have to take off their clothes for him. As far as nudity is concerned, Hun says that it's the work at hand which gets to him more than the nakedness.

Describing his relationship with his models as "very close", Hun admits that body art does have its challenges. Unlike a helmet, a human canvas comes with a mind, so the ability to make small talk is an advantage. "The first thing that I am confronted with is the challenge of image placement.

Unlike a flat canvas, the human body has its own curves and planes. You can have the best drawing but if the main subject is placed wrongly, you've lost out on impact. That leaves you with a mess instead of a work of art," he explains.

He also adds that one has to be clever about working around cellulite and scars because they interfere with aesthetics. A human canvas will also stretch and bend. A drawing may look fine when the model is sitting down but the picture can become distorted when she is standing. So there must be an understanding of how the model is going to carry the artwork.

"The one thing that excites me about body art is the 3D effect. Unlike a stationary canvas, the human body is a living and breathing object. When your model moves, your work comes to life.

"I derive the most satisfaction when I see my art work living and breathing with the subject," he concludes.

Hun gives lessons on basic airbrushing at the National Art Gallery on the last weekend of every month. Check it out on Facebook under Paul Airbrushing.


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