Ahad, 25 September 2011

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Delectable cookout tribute

Posted: 21 May 2011 10:23 PM PDT

Writers and contributors play chefs in celebrating their fun stints with Sunday Metro.

STARTING tomorrow, The Star and Sunday Star will have an exciting new look which, we hope, will further enhance our readers' reading experience. The new look entailed a review of the entire paper to streamline content, and some tough decisions.

One of these was the decision to cease publication of Sunday Metro upon the launch of the new look. However, Sunday Metro-style content will continue to be featured in the magazine pull-out, StarTwo on Sunday so "fans" will not really want for anything.

And so today is our last publication. Looking back over the years since its launch, Sunday Metro has resonated with readers mainly for its coverage of food, people and their favourite pastimes, among others.

So, to cap off an enjoyable run, we have got together some of the people who have been closely associated with Sunday Metro to share their favourite recipe(s), don their aprons and cook up a storm.

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Buddies and foodies

Posted: 21 May 2011 11:44 PM PDT

Best friends Kavin Jayaram and Adrian Jalaludin are foodies who will travel the distance for their favourite satay or chicken rice balls.

COMEDIAN Kavin Jayaram and TV host, model and actor Adrian Jalaludin are the best of friends now but when they first met, insults were involved.

By day, KL-born Kavin is the serious guy doing his work as an engineer. But at night, he is a laugh-a-minute man who performs stand-up comedy on stage.

The 31-year-old funny guy, who jokingly describes himself as an "idiot", can be seen doling out his side-splitting lines at Time Out KL Comedy Thursday at Zouk Club and shows organised by Comedy Club KL.

"I'm also part of a big project involving an Asian comedy tour," he reveals during this interview with Sunday Metro.

Kavin continues to jest, saying that he has an opinion on everything, "and usually it's wrong. So, I decided to share my opinions with everyone in the hope that they will pay me. A loveable idiot whom people come to see if they need cheering up, so their life problems won't seem so bad anymore."

He says he was 17 when he first saw Harith Iskander on stage and thought stand-up comedy was something he could pursue.

"My brother used to say I should perform stand-up comedy but I procrastinated," he recalls. "Unfortunately, he never had a chance to watch me perform as he passed away five years ago."

Quickly brushing aside the melancholy, Kavin describes being a good comic as no laughing matter and that it requires a lot of hard work.

"The first time I attempted to do comedy was in 2006. I got 150 friends to watch me at a pub but my performance then was really bad," he relates, adding that it took him three years to master his act with support from other comedians.

Always game to learn something new, Kavin went to audition for the position of host for Cube, an English youth talk show on NTV7, last September. It was during this audition that he met Adrian.

"I got the gig in the end," quips Adrian, who was present at the interview.

"The producer called me to say they opted for someone who was better looking," says Kavin, who adds jokingly that he called Adrian names after that. "But Adrian took my insults quite well and we've been good friends ever since."

Adrian, 26, co-hosts Football Overload and Bola@Mamak on Astro. He was named by Female magazine as one of the finalists for 50 Gorgeous People, Malaysia in 2006, when he was 21 years old.

Also born in KL, Adrian is of Indonesian-Dutch-German-Chinese-Pakistani parentage. In 2006, he began a career in runway modelling but after eight months, realised it wasn't for him.

"My friends told me to try TV hosting, which I did. My first job was hosting the Champions Youth Cup for Astro in 2007," Adrian says.

The Champions Youth Cup is an annual football tournament endorsed by the G-14 group as a Club World Championship for the Under-19 teams of some of the world's largest clubs.

Adrian also hosts a TV show in Singapore called National School Games, a sports magazine programme. It keeps him busy commuting between the two countries.

Apart from being in the business of entertaining, Kavin and Adrian share another interest – eating out. The guys speak about their food adventures and how far they would go for their favourite food.

> What is your philosophy on food? Do you have any favourite food?

Kavin: I will try anything once. I have travelled to many places all over the world and have eaten some weird stuff. But I will not try those Balut eggs from the Philippines. My favourite food is Italian food.

Adrian: I like trying weird food too, including fried insects and bugs in Thailand. On the normal side, my favourite dishes are French escargots and chicken rice balls from Malacca.

> Is there any food you don't like?

Kavin: I have a dislike for giant beansprouts. It has a certain smell that turns me off.

Adrian: I hate brinjal and papaya.

> Do you binge or have comfort food?

Kavin: Nasi Lemak! There is a stall selling great nasi lemak near my home in Ampang. Cooking is also something I love. I like to make my favourite pasta with coconut cream and bacon.

Adrian: Snickers ice cream. But I can't binge a lot nowadays as my metabolic rate has declined.

> Do you have any peculiar eating habit?

Kavin: I like to use my fingers to eat most of the time, even with spaghetti. I also like eating food on toast, spaghetti sauce and baked beans.

Adrian: I dip everything in Nutella!

> Would you go out of your way for certain food? Would you eat at an empty restaurant?

Kavin: Definitely. My wife and I like to drive to Kajang to eat satay, sometimes to Ipoh for the Char Koay Teow and Johor for Laksa Johor. The beef noodles in Seremban are also good; another favourite place is Port Klang where we go for the seafood. Yes, I will eat at an empty restaurant just to give it a try.

Adrian: I will travel to Malacca for the chicken rice balls and Kampung Baru for Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa. Yes, I will eat at an empty restaurant because I feel bad for them (laughs).

> What do you dislike most about eating out? What turns you off?

Kavin: Having to argue with my wife about where we should go for a meal.

Adrian: Getting all dressed up (laughs). I prefer to order in for food.

> How do you find out about where to eat?

Kavin: Mostly from TimeOut KL.

Adrian: Google!

> Do you watch TV food shows? Which are your favourites?

Kavin: Yes. I like to watch License to Grill and Nigella's show.

Adrian: My favourite is Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares.

> If you had to cook a fast meal, what would it be?

Kavin: Lamb and yoghurt curry.

Adrian: Fried rice.

> Is there a street food recommended by friends that you have been hoping to try out?

Kavin: The Thai Fish Cakes in Bangkok! I can never get the perfect recipe to do it on my own.

Adrian: I like to tuck into lok-lok after a night out on weekends.

> What's your favourite shopping mall/pasar malam/flea market?

Kavin: Kepong wet market. You will smell like a fish market for a few days but it is worth it.

Adrian: Taman Tun Dr Ismail market during Ramadan.

> How do you spend your Sundays?

Kavin: Sundays are mostly spent with my wife. We will either be at my parents' house in Puchong or my in-laws' place in Perak.

Adrian: Under the blanket watching DVDs. But I'm usually busy commuting to Singapore to host my show.

‘Squatty’ good porridge

Posted: 21 May 2011 11:46 PM PDT

It's back-to-basics for those who want to savour a bowl of piping hot porridge in old George Town.

PATRONS of fine dining will be horrified at the idea of squatting to eat but for more adventurous foodies visiting Penang island, it is definitely an experience to boast about to friends.

While this island food paradise may have eateries on every street corner, the Teochew porridge stall along Magazine Road is one that definitely stands out for its unique seating arrangement.

A relic of days gone by when neither grace nor etiquette was a prime concern while dining, squatting to eat has always been the norm at this open-air eatery in inner George Town.

Long benches line the stall, with wooden stools placed on top of them. To eat, one simply mounts the "throne", adjusts the stools accordingly and makes oneself comfortable. It is a delicate balancing act in itself, one that regular customers have seemingly turned into a graceful art.

Popular now with those from the working class, the place in the old days was often frequented by trishawmen. Back then, customers simply wanted to enjoy cheap and good food comfortably (though the uninitiated might beg to differ on the comfort aspect), and the practice has persisted to this day, becoming somewhat of a curiosity.

The back-to-basics simplicity is a winning formula that has seen the family-run establishment thrive for the better part of seven decades. Neither signboard nor advertising is needed here. It has never failed to catch the attention of tourists while most locals of a certain age know about it. Come lunch time, they'll find their way here and pack the place to the brim.

They all come for one thing – a piping hot bowl of plain porridge, which is dished out from one earthenware pot after another. According to Tan Joo Hong, who now helps his elderly father, Jin Hock, run the place, they normally sell in excess of a hundred bowls of the moy (Hokkien for congee) each day.

For accompaniments, there are around two dozen side dishes, ranging from vegetables to fish and meat, all freshly prepared in the simple and basic kitchen mere footsteps away by a team of helpers.

Once these are cooked, they're scooped into trays and placed on the counter. With so many side dishes coming out and so little space, some are stacked on top of the other. Thus, ordering a meal can be akin to a treasure hunt to see what morsels lay beneath.

"We try to prepare as many dishes as possible until there's nowhere to put them," Joo Hong says.

The side dishes come in small servings, allowing one to try a little bit of everything. With the plain porridge providing a neutral base, items like the tau yew bak (braised pork in soya sauce) or stir-fried clams with garlic and chilli can be added for flavour.

Another, the humble fried fish, has a crispy texture that is in stark contrast to the mushy porridge. And then there are the many types of stir-fried vegetable items and eponymous salted duck egg and salted fish, which are also popular with the crowd.

With such an array of accompaniments on offer, the combinations are almost endless. Patrons are literally spoilt for choice, and when they come in, they simply point to their desired item and these are scooped and ready in no time at all.

That, combined with very affordable prices, is what keeps the customers coming back, enabling the business to withstand both the test of time and competition from the many eateries at Komtar, Prangin Mall and 1st Avenue shopping complexes.

A security guard who shares the surname Tan, has been a regular for almost a decade. A resident nearby, he goes to the stall several times a week but never gets tired of it.

"It's delicious, cheap and good. What more can one ask for?" he asks as he clambers off his stool, makes his way to his motorcycle and rides off, back to work.

Delivery man Chen Ah Huat is another who never fails to stop by for a meal whenever he's making rounds in the area. It's a routine that he has followed for as long as he can remember.

"With Penang's hot weather, a soothing bowl of porridge is the best option," he says.

Those interested to try the squat-and-eat porridge should take note that the stall (located opposite Traders Hotel) is only open from Thursday to Sunday, from about 11am until the final morsels of food are sold out between 4pm and 5pm.

When quizzed on why they're not open on the first three days of the week, Joo Hong nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders before replying, "It's always been like this since my grandfather's time."

Another popular Teochew porridge haunt can be found at the heart of George Town's heritage area, Muntri Street, directly opposite Cititel Penang.

Known as Tai Buan Porridge, it is located in a prewar shop lot close to the intersection with Leith Street.

Locals wax lyrical about it, and similar to the above mentioned one on Magazine Road, the porridge comes with a variety of condiments, though not as many. Also, fret not as you don't have to squat here - there are proper chairs and tables.

Within a steaming cauldron, pieces of duck meat, pork innards, pork belly and tofu gently braise away in soy sauce, while others are neatly displayed, a definite eye-catcher for anyone passing by.

Those with adventurous palates might find the duck liver, gizzards, pig's ear and intestines to their liking, but it is an acquired taste. No part of the animals goes to waste, that's for sure. Regardless of which you choose, it seems that the savoury items are tailor-made for the mild porridge.

This place is open from around 1.30pm to 8pm daily except Sunday. For takeaways, be sure to bring your own containers as the owners have long practised a go-green, no plastic bag policy.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Big Love: Family takes centre stage

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 12:08 AM PDT

Big Love ends its journey with Season Five by going back to where it started – the core family members.

Back in 2006, HBO's Big Love took a path that's never been explored on television before – polygamy – to tackle subjects like love, marriage, faith, family and tolerance without setting any boundaries. The complexities of these already difficult topics were amplified as the series revolves around a family of one husband, his three wives, their nine children and this big fat gestating secret.

Over the course of three seasons, we've followed the arduous, and sometimes crazy, journey taken by Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton), Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) as they try to live a normal life as they possibly can. But often, thanks to conflicts within the family members and outside interference, the Henricksons were riddled with more than the average family's sets of problems.

Then suddenly in Season Four, the show shifted gears with bizarre story arcs, which took the focus away from the family and into things like politics, bird-smuggling, kidnapping, casino and murder! Needless to say, this didn't bode well for the show.

Not only was it announced Season Five would be the show's last, but creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer threw another curveball at the end of Season Four. Bill, who had just been elected to the state Senate, confessed to his supporters that he is a polygamist. His intention was to put a face to this lifestyle that has received a bad reputation and to show that not everyone who practices polygamy abuses it. After outing himself, Bill went on to invite his three wives to the podium – putting them under the spotlight, too.

The fifth and the final season starts tonight on HBO.

At an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles earlier this year, the series' four main cast members assure fans that Season Five is going to be Big Love's best season yet as the show's focus is once again on the family and how the announcement affects them.

Paxton who plays the leading man in the show tells it from his character's point of view.

"He's not a guy who's intimidated by anyone, but he doesn't realise the avalanche of ill tidings that's heading his way. When his family is affected – like his kids get picked on in school – he can't handle that. But he can't go back so all he can do is hold on and focus – it becomes a real struggle for him, not only because the outside world is closing in on him but also the inside world of the family starts to implode," he says.

Although Sevigny feels the show could have gone on for another season at least, the 36-year-old is thankful that the writers were able to give the show a proper ending.

"The finale is going to shock the fans, and they will be really pleased," she says. "There are shows like Six Feet Under that gave us great moments of satisfaction with the ending and you are able to let go of the show. Then there are shows like Deadwood that didn't get that closure and you are left wondering where those character are, what they are doing. So it's nice to give that to the fans."

For the cast, the end is bittersweet – well, except for Goodwin who confesses she's completely devastated she can't see her co-stars every morning at 5am on the set of Big Love anymore. But she believes the four of them will remain a close unit even long after they've moved on to different projects. It's understandable how the actors have become close while making this show.

Other than a 25-episode stint in the TV series Ed by Goodwin, none of them have been in a TV show or have had a lasting relationship with their co-stars for this long.

"Actors talk about how hard it is to let a character go, especially one that you've been with for five years – it's like a death. I've never experienced that before because I've always done a project that has lasted six months at the most, and usually by the end of that project, you're ready to move on. The hardest thing of all to let go of is the relationships I have with Chloe, Ginni and Bill. It's pretty amazing," explains Tripplehorn.

"It's just one of those lucky rolls of the dice, how we all get on. My son has known these people for most of his life, and I view it through his eyes. So I'm going to miss that. Barb has not been an easy character to play, and I don't go on autopilot when I play her. I have to think and I have to adjust. It's not been something I've coasted through. But I am going to miss that work experience.

"I'm also going to miss the camaraderie. I've never had one altercation with these people, not one. We still have lunch together when we work. That's unheard of."

The 48-year-old who received her theatre education in Juilliard School in New York says that working on Big Love has been a tremendous experience. A strong advocate for ageing naturally, Tripplehorn has noticed since working on Big Love that turning 40 in Hollywood is not like a death sentence any longer, as there are more and more older actresses entering television with female roles getting more challenging, and written with respect towards women. No wonder Tripplehorn feels she can take on any role in the future as working on Big Love has furthered her acting skills.

Similarly, 33-year-old Goodwin (who received a certificate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company in London) confesses her resume has received a boost thanks to her work on the show.

Goodwin shares: "I have been told that I've got certain movie roles because of Big Love. I feel it has been a wonderful five-season audition for other projects because we've really got the chance to show our range; I couldn't value more the opportunities that it has brought me."

Perhaps what makes Big Love so special is that, despite the topic of polygamy, what the characters in the show are going through does connect with the masses.

Barb has been a conflicted woman right from the start, having to come to terms with her strange way of life and having problems finding her own footing and faith. That is a common notion that pops up in any relationship. It should be interesting to see if Barb will ever take the bull by the horns before the end.

Sevigny's character may be a bit extreme but her bitchy attitude, the way she manipulates a situation is something most of us would have encountered sometime in our lives.

And Goodwin's Margene started out as an eager young thing and she has become outspoken and self-reliant in five years.

For Paxton, the show is ultimately about tolerance.

"Here's a family that should be shunned and abhorred by modern society because they are living outside the status quo, but as you get to know them, you realise they have the same hopes, desires, disappointments, happy times and sad times as anyone else. This is the longest race I've ever ran and I am glad to finally get to the finish," he sums it all up.

Season Five of Big Love premieres tonight at 10pm on HBO (Astro Ch 411) / 11pm on HBO HD (Astro Ch 431). Two new episodes are available every Monday at the same time.

The good life

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 11:51 PM PDT

You stand a chance to win a pair of tickets to Westlife's Gravity Tour 2011 on Red FM.

GET an earful of Rudyoke on Red FM's Breakfast Show with Rudy and Jeremy (Monday to Friday, 6am-10am) and you could be singing along to Westlife at their Malaysian concert!

One of the most successful boy bands in the world will be flying in to perform live at Putra Indoor Stadium Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, on Oct 7. Don't miss Westlife singing a repertoire of their hits such as Flying Without Wings, Fool Again, You Raise Me Up and Uptown Girl.

All this week, Rudy and Jeremy will be giving you a chance to catch the band live by putting your music knowledge and your ears to the test with Rudyoke.

The lively duo will play a recorded clip of a popular song being sung by random strangers belting their hearts out. Guess it right and you win a pair of tickets to Westlife's Gravity Tour 2011. Check out www.airasiaredtix.com for more details.

In the meantime, here's another reason to start singing – you can win cash, gadgets and even a car if you spot Red FM's Runaway DJs.

Every Monday to Friday, the deejays, including Rudy and Jeremy, will take turns driving around in a red Proton Inspira. Clues on their whereabouts will be given out every hour on-air through Red FM's Facebook Fan page as well as Twitter.

Be the first listener to turn up at the correct location and identify Red FM's Runaway DJ. You get to pick up a key to enter the finale and be in the running to win a brand new Proton Inspira!

With the contest in its last week, you have only till Sept 29 to join in the hunt. The finale will take place on Sept 30 at Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

For terms and conditions of all contests, visit www.red.fm. Also, join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/redfm.my) and follow us on Twitter (@iloveredfm) for the latest updates.

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

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

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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Militants attack suspected CIA office in Kabul

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 08:37 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Militants attacked a U.S. compound in Kabul that is believed to include a major CIA office for Afghanistan, according to news reports and official sources.

The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment but a U.S. government source acknowledged the building targeted in the attack, considered part of the U.S. embassy compound in Kabul, likely contained CIA offices.

The BBC reported gunfire and a blast were heard on Sunday evening from the compound. It said a U.S. official confirmed there was an attack on a facility previously known as the Ariana hotel.

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters an attack was made against a facility used by U.S. officials in Kabul, saying that the situation is fluid and the investigation continues.

Two weeks ago, militants launched an assault against the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul. U.S. officials blamed those attacks on the Haqqani network, a group of Afghan militants based in Pakistan's tribal areas.

U.S. officials said there was intelligence, including intercepted phone calls, suggesting those attackers were in communication with people connected to Pakistan's principal spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.

Pakistani officials strongly denied any ISI connection to the earlier Kabul attacks. U.S. officials did not immediately respond to questions about who might be behind the latest attack.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Syrian tanks pound rebel town near Homs, 3 injured

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 08:37 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian tanks pounded a town on a strategic highway overnight to dislodge army defectors who have taken refuge in the area, activists and residents said on Monday.

Three inhabitants of al-Rastan were injured when troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad opened fire with heavy machine guns mounted on the tanks surrounding the town, said residents. Activists reported hearing heavy explosions.

Demonstrators pose during a march through the streets after Friday prayers in Idlib September 23, 2011. Message on the T-shirts read: "The people want President executed". (REUTERS/Handout)

The army defectors have been supporting pro-democracy protesters in al-Rastan, 20 km (19 miles) north of the city of Homs, on the main northern highway leading to Turkey.

Faced with expanding street protests demanding an end to 41 years of Assad family rule, the president has sent troops and tanks into cities and towns across the country of 20 million at the heart of the Arab Middle East.

The military crackdown has killed at least 2,700 people, including 100 children, according to the United Nations, while authorities say 700 police and army have been killed by "terrorists" and "mutineers".

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Libya's NTC readies new push into Sirte

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 08:37 PM PDT

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Fighters backing Libya's interim rulers prepared to renew their advance into the coastal city of Sirte on Monday after NATO aircraft bombed targets in Muammar Gaddafi's home town to sap the resistance of the deposed leader's troops.

An anti-Gaddafi fighter gestures as he sits atop an armed personnel vehicle at Khamseen Gate, 50 km east of Sirte September 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori)

Anti-Gaddafi forces had pushed to within a few hundred metres of the centre of Sirte, one of the last bastions of pro-Gaddafi resistance in Libya, but drew back on Sunday while NATO aircraft launched their attacks.

Sirte lies between the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, both now held by the National Transitional Council, whose fighters toppled Gaddafi last month, six months into a campaign that is not yet over.

Taking Sirte would be a huge boost for the NTC as it tries to establish credibility as a government able to unite Libya's fractious tribes and regions, and a blow for Gaddafi, widely believed to be on the run inside Libya.

Gaddafi loyalists showed they were still a threat by launching an attack on Sunday on the desert oasis town of Ghadames, on the border with Algeria, NTC officials said.

The NTC said on Sunday its followers had found a mass grave containing the bodies of 1,270 people killed by Gaddafi's security forces in a 1996 massacre of prison inmates in southern Tripoli.

The mass grave was the first physical evidence found so far of the Abu Salim prison massacre, an event that was covered up for years but created simmering anger that ultimately helped bring about Gaddafi's downfall.

Survivors have told human rights groups that guards lined up inmates in the courtyards of the Abu Salim prison at dawn on June 29, 1996, and security men standing on the prison rooftops shot them down.

The uprising that toppled Gaddafi was ignited by protests linked to the Abu Salim massacre. In February, families of inmates killed there demonstrated in Benghazi to demand the release of their lawyer.

There was little fighting on Sunday on the ground west of Sirte, where NTC fighters have advanced closest to the centre.

On the eastern side, their forces pushed to within 15 km (9 miles) of the city centre, an advance of more than 25 km.

A Reuters reporter there said NTC forces had been helped by NATO bombing, and said she could hear artillery fire and see black smoke on the horizon. Doctors at a hospital east of Sirte said one fighter had been killed and 12 wounded in clashes.

Gaddafi's spokesman contacted Reuters to deny reports that Gaddafi and his family had helped themselves to Libya's oil wealth, giving an insight into his current preoccupations.

"The leader of the revolution and his family are among the poorest citizens," said the spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim. He spoke by telephone and did not reveal where he was calling from.

Accounts from NTC fighters and people who had left Sirte indicated pro-Gaddafi forces were trying to prevent civilians from fleeing, effectively using them as human shields.

"Gaddafi's forces have surrounded the area, closed it off, by shooting at people," said a man called Youssef, driving away from Sirte with his wife. "There are a lot of people who want to get out but can't."

A man saying he was a hospital doctor in Sirte told Reuters by telephone it was NTC forces who were making civilians suffer. Wounded people were dying because medical supplies were running out and the hospital had been hit by shellfire, he said.

The doctor, who gave his name as Abdullah Hmaid, used the mobile telephone of the Gaddafi spokesman, Ibrahim, who is a native of Sirte.


The attack by pro-Gaddafi forces on Ghadames underlined the fragility of the NTC's grip even on parts of the country nominally under its control.

The town, about 600 km southwest of Tripoli, is near a border crossing that pro-Gaddafi Libyans have used to flee into Algeria. Its old town, an intricate maze of mud walls, is a UNESCO world heritage site.

"These militias have attacked our people in Ghadames city," the NTC's Bani told a news conference, adding that NTC fighters expected to be in full control of the area in "a matter of days".

A month after ousting Gaddafi's forces from Tripoli and most of the country, the challenge to the NTC's rule is now focused in Sirte and Bani Walid, a town about 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Tripoli.

Until both are captured, Libya's new rulers say they cannot begin the process of holding elections. Wrangling over ministerial portfolios has prevented them from forming a caretaker government, deepening uncertainty over the country's future.

(Additional reporting by in Tripoli, Alexander Dziadosz in Sirte, Sherine El Madany east of Sirte, Emad Omar in Benghazi and John O'Donnell in Brussels; Writing by Tim Pearce; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Asia still sees red

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 07:56 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia continued to trade in the red as sentiments of unresolved global uncertainties over-spilled into the new week.

Hwang DBS Vickers Research said in its market preview that "our Malaysian bourse will be hoping to regain its footing after falling by 65.0-point or 4.5% last week. Nonetheless, we reckon any technical rebound will likely be mild in the near term".

It also included that "stocks that could see a relief rally today include beaten down heavyweights such as Maybank, Sime Darby and Genting. Proton shares may also attract interest after a weekly business reported that there has been renewed interest in a takeover exercise in the national automotive company".

The FBM KCLI traded at 1347.14 at 10.06am, dipping 18.8 points or 1.38%. It opened at 1357.74, losing 8.20 points, or 0.6%.

Locally, market volume was relatively thin with 131.25mil shares traded at 10.10am worth RM173.77mil. Decliners outpaced advancers 413 to 53 while 155 counters remain unchanged. The gainers were led by United U-Li Corp Bhd, rising 18 sen to RM1.03; Hil Industris Bhd gaining 14 sen to hit RM4.09 and QSR Brands Bhd gaining 11 sen to RM5.44.

On the other end, the losers in morning trade were Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd, sliding 56 sen to RM 20.14; Public Bank Bhd falling 48 sen to RM11.96 and blue chip Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd dipping 36 sen to RM17.66.

Within the region, bourses traded in the slight negative. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 1.65% to 8419.36; Hong Kong's Hang Send Index was recorded a 0.31% dip at 17614.51; Shanghai A index was down 0.12% to 2430.13 while Taiwan's Taiex slid 0.73% to 6994.53 and Korea's Kospi fell 1.2% to 1677.12.

Closer to home, Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 1.05% to 2670.38.

Nymex crude oil was unchanged at US$79.85. Spot gold lost US$15.16 to US$1641.57 while silver dipped 98 cents to US$30.17.

The ringgit continued to weaken against the American dollar at 3.1877 and 4.2786 against the euro.

Dexia prepared to sell £12.58 billion in assets: Les Echos

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 05:54 PM PDT

PARIS (Reuters) - Franco-Belgian bank Dexia is ready for the "rapid" sale of 12.58 billion in assets deemed too costly to fund in the current market environment, French newspaper Les Echos said in a preview of its Monday edition.

The bank may also seek to free up capital in the "externalization" of 80 billion euros' worth of loans to local government, though the exact method has yet to be determined, Les Echos added in a short item released late on Sunday.

A spokesman for Dexia declined to comment on any specific details but said the bank was committed to dealing with loans it had placed in a run-off portfolio.

"Dexia has already exceeded its annual target for the first half of 2011 but is not committing to numerical targets for the rest of the year," the spokesman told Reuters.

Such a sale would come after similar pledges to sell assets from France's BNP Paribas and Societe Generale after a turbulent three months on the stock market, with fears of a Greek default pushing up European banks' funding costs.

Larger Europe bailout fund could weigh on ratings:S&P

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 05:53 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Europe's efforts to ramp up its fight against the euro zone debt crisis could potentially trigger credit rating downgrades in the region, a top Standard & Poor's official warned.

David Beers, the head of S&P's sovereign rating group, said it is still too soon to know how European policymakers will boost the European Financial Stability Facility, how effective that will be and its possible credit implications.

But he said the various alternatives could have "potential credit implications in different ways," including for leading euro zone countries such as France and Germany.

European officials, seeking more resources to protect the euro zone against fallout from its debt crisis, are considering ways to increase the impact of the 440 billion-euro fund by leveraging, although it remains unclear exactly how.

Beers said it was evident, however, that policymakers cannot leverage the EFSF without limits.

"There is some recognition in the euro zone that there is no cheap, risk-free leveraging options for the EFSF any more," Beers told Reuters.

Some analysts say at least 2 trillion euros would be needed to safeguard Italy and Spain if the Greek crisis spreads.

"We're getting to a point where the guarantee approach of the sort that the EFSF highlights is running out of road." Beers said in an interview late on Saturday.

Euro zone member states provide guarantees to the EFSF, which makes loans to struggling member countries such as Greece. But countries such as Germany have signaled they will not commit to making more of their own money available.

Beers said that reluctance is why policymakers are now discussing options such as leveraging the fund via the European Central Bank or via markets, or even the possibility of deeper fiscal integration in the euro zone.

Beers declined to comment on implications of each of the scenarios for boosting the EFSF.

However, one option could involve backing up the fund with money from the European Central Bank, eliminating the need for politically unpopular cash injections from hard-up European governments.

That solution, although potentially reducing the impact on sovereign ratings, would probably increase liabilities in the ECB's balance sheet and possibly leave euro zone countries on the hook for restoring the bank's capital in the event of losses caused by an euro zone default.

Leveraging the EFSF could also result in a downgrade of its own AAA credit rating.

A deeper fiscal union between members of the euro zone, on the other hand, would increase borrowing costs for core European countries such as France and Germany, while providing relief to the more debt-heavy peripheral countries.

S&P's warning echoes concerns expressed by some European policy-makers at semiannual meetings this weekend at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington .

"We should not think of leveraging a public pot of funds as a free lunch," ECB Governing Council member Patrick Honohan told reporters.

S&P, which cut Greece's credit rating deeper into junk territory in July, believes European policymakers are also finally realizing that Greece's debt restructuring will take place with significant haircuts.

"Therefore, there are going to be some banks that might require additional capital," Beers said.

S&P believes, however, that banks can still raise money in the market rather than relying only on government support.

"The banks have to go out and talk with potential investors. There have been interesting developments this year, certainly banks in Europe have been raising capital," Beers said in the interview.


On the economic outlook, S&P sees rising risks of recession in the United States and parts of Europe as their economies struggle to recover at the same time that major emerging market countries such as China and India tighten monetary policies.

The implications of a double-dip recession for ratings of developed countries would depend on how governments respond to the crisis of confidence that is at the root of the economic weakness, Beers said.

That response, he added, needs to go beyond lowering fiscal deficits and should include addressing market concerns about bank capital cushions and focusing on the structural drivers of the fiscal deficits, typically health care and state pensions.

"If governments are unable to focus on the long-standing impediments to growth, then austerity alone is not going to give you growth," Beers said, citing the case of Italy.

He also had a warning for Germany. Many economists, he said, had initially overestimated the country's growth performance for this year and are finally realizing that its fate is "inexorably linked to that of all its neighbors."

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Diver Ken Nee realises dream of going to his second Olympic Games

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 05:34 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Diver Yeoh Ken Nee can look forward to a good farewell outing at the London Olympics next year.

The seasoned campaigner realised a dream to make another Olympic appearance after winning the men's individual 3m springboard event at the FINA Diving Asia Cup at National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil.

He thus joins Bryan Nickson Lomas and Pandelela Rinong as the divers who have qualified early for the London Olympics next year.

Back-up divers Pardika Indoma-Ooi Tze Liang also brought more cheers for Malaysia when they surprised the strong field to win the men's 10m platform synchro competition.

But the attention was on the 3m springboard individual discipline as a place at the London Olympics was up for grabs by virtue of being the continental champion.

All four winners in the individual disciplines (men's and women's 3m springboard and 10m platform) will qualify for the Olympics.

Three Chinese back-up divers pulled out at the last minute to hand Ken Nee an easier route and the Malaysian did not waste the opportunity.

Ken Nee completed the six-dive attempts with a total of 456.55 points to finish ahead of fellow Malaysian Tze Liang, who garnered 387.50 for the silver. Singapore's Timothy Lee got the bronze with 310.10 points.

Ken Nee said he knew the Chinese divers were not competing during the warm-up session at the pool before the start of the competition.

"But I was more concerned with giving a good performance. I was ready to fight with them even if they were taking part.

"I'm happy to go for another Olympics and my scores are also better than what I managed at the World Championships in Shanghai," said Ken Nee, who missed out on qualification at the world meet in July after failing to even make the top-18 semi-finals.

"I just hope to stay free of injuries until the Olympics. It's my last competition as I have said earlier I wanted to quit as I'm not getting any younger," added Ken Nee, whose only outing at the Olympics was way back in Sydney in 2000.

Tze Liang-Pardika won the men's 10m platform synchro gold medal earlier with a total of 374.34 points.

China's Wang Anqi-Li Di took the silver with 371.70 points.

Malaysia also got a silver and a bronze in two more finals contested. The silver came from Kam Ling Kar-Jasmine Lai Pui Yee in the women's 10m platform synchro and the bronze from Cheong Jun Hoong in the women's 1m springboard, which is not an Olympic event.

Hafizh registers his first win of season in Kluang

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 05:32 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Defending champion Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah showed that he is still the man to beat in the CP130 category after taking his first chequered flag of the season in Round 7 of the Petronas AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championship at the Kluang Stadium yesterday.

The Petronas Syntium Moto Yamaha Raceline rider, who only started his season in Round 5 (Teluk Intan), dictated the race from start to finish. He clocked 11:49.723.

Mohd Zamri Baba (Petronas Syntium Moto Yamaha AHM) and Ahmad Fazli Sham (Pennzoil Fastrac Racing) were second and third respectively. They stopped the clock at 11:51.917 and 11:52.215 respectively.

"I am absolutely pleased with my results today and it's a great feeling to win a race again," said Hafizh who started on pole position.

"I started off the race well and by the sixth lap I knew I was half a second ahead of my rivals. I didn't pile pressure on myself but just to remain focus and maintain my pace."

With the win, Hafizh moves up from 15th to 12th in the overall standings with 54 points, only nine adrift of Mohd Affendi Rosli (Harian Metro TEQ SCK Honda Racing).

Affendi's team-mate, Norizman Ismail who finished ninth in the race, still tops the standings with 94 points while Fazli is second on 79 points.

In the CP115 category, Shahril Izzuwan Mohd Noor made up for his disappointing outing in the previous round by winning the 12-lap race in 9:41.750.

The Petronas Syntium Moto Yamaha AHM rider had a slow start but put on a strong fighting spirit to snatch the lead from Mohd Emir Firdaus Hasan in the sixth lap.

Emir of M-Seki Liberty Honda Racing had to settle for second place with a time of 9:45.241 while Shahril's team-mate, Mohd Hafieenaz Mohd Ali came in third in 9:45.995.

Dutchman ends seven-year drought with majestic seven-shot victory

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 05:30 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk ended a seven-year winless run with a majestic seven-shot victory at the PGM-MIDF-KLGCC Classic on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).

The 31-year-old comfortably retained his overnight seven-shot cushion at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club's West course to sign off with a closing one-over 73 to complete a wire-to-wire victory in the RM200,000 (approximately US$66,000) tournament.

Filipino Gerald Rosales failed to mount a challenge as he settled for second place in what was the eighth and final leg of the 2011 ADT season, closing with a 73.

With three Asian Tour cards at stake for the top-three finishers of the ADT Order of Merit, American Jonathan Moore comfortably finished top of the rankings with US$29,579 after coming in fourth here.

Taiwan's Chiang Chen-chih took second place with a season haul of US$23,341 but countryman Kao Shang-hung had to endure a nervous wait before sealing third spot with US$19,874 when closest rival Takafumi Kawane of Japan failed to secure the top-four finish required to pip Kao to a priceless Asian Tour card.

Van Der Valk was over the moon with his victory, which was his career fifth but first since the Dutch PGA Championship in 2004.

He accumulated a four-day total of seven-under 281.

"It's awesome, it's a good feeling," smiled Van Der Valk, who came into the week in good form after finishing tied second in the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic on the Asian Tour earlier in the month.

"It was nice to stay in control and it was nice to finish the job.

"It's my first wire-to-wire win and I'm happy," added the Dutchman, who earned US$10,594.

Rosales reduced the lead down to four shots after the sixth hole but never got closer than that. "Guido didn't start good but when he birdied the seventh and eighth holes, it settled him down.

"He did what he had to do," said the Filipino.

Moore, a former US Walker Cup player and competing in his debut season in Asia, was delighted to top the rankings in a season which included one victory in Malaysia and four other top-four performances.

"This is unexpected. I'm thankful as over a year ago, I started a new plan with some new coaches and things started to click. I've played well in the ADT events and it is awesome," said the American.

"When I first got to Qualifying School in Thailand in January, I was nervous coming out of the airport and the quality of competition has been strong here.

"I'm thankful that my wife Claire caddied all year for me as it's really hard work to carry that bag in this heat."

The best Malaysian finisher in the PGM-MIDF-KLGCC Classic was Nicholas Fung, who was fifth after a closing 77 for a 296 total.

The ADT was launched last year by the Asian Tour with five tournaments where the aim is to create a career pathway for professional golfers to get into the Asian Tour.

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Veteran singer Ahmad Jais in ICU but in stable condition

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 04:38 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: Veteran singer Datuk Mohd Jais Ahmad, better known as Ahmad Jais, 75, who was admitted to Darul Ehsan Medical Centre (DEMC) here Saturday, was transferred to the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) early Sunday due to breathing difficulty.

The singer's fourth child, Maimun, 31, however, said her father's condition was stable at the moment.

"My father is asthmatic and when he has a cough, he tends to have breathing difficulty. He has been put on a ventilator to ease his breathing," she said when met here.

Maimun said her father had complained of fatigue after performing in Batu Pahat, Johor, on Sept 8. When his condition became serious on Thursday night, he was admitted to the KPJ Selangor Specialist Hospital in Section 20, here.

He was transferred to DEMC early Saturday as he has a medical record there.

Maimun hoped relatives, and her father's friends and fans would pray for his recovery. - Bernama

Guan Eng: DAP top leadership will quit if hudud law included in Pakatan policy

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 04:01 AM PDT

Published: Sunday September 25, 2011 MYT 6:57:00 PM
Updated: Sunday September 25, 2011 MYT 7:01:06 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: DAP's top leadership will resign en masse if hudud law or the formation of an Islamic state are ever incorporated in Pakatan Rakyat's common policy framework or "Buku Jingga".

"If there is any mention that we want to implement hudud law in our common policy framework and Buku Jingga, the party's entire central committee will resign," party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng told reporters after officiating DAP's Federal Territories convention here Sunday.

He said the pact between DAP, PAS and PKR had been agreed upon in "black and white" and was aimed at collaboration on common issues such as justice, the fight against corruption and upholding ruman rights.

"Hudud law was never included in Pakatan's common policy framework and if it is not included, it should not be part of the agenda," he said.

DAP and PAS are at loggerheads over the implementation of hudud law and formation of an Islamic state, after PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Seri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat recently called for their implementation in Kelantan.

PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim shocked his Pakatan allies when he openly supported PAS' plan to implement hudud law in Kelantan.

However, DAP national chairman Karpal Singh said his party had never accepted hudud or the idea of setting up an Islamic state and neither had Pakatan made an official stand supporting it.

Related Stories:
PAS: We'll not give up
Najib: No hudud in Malaysia
DAP: We'll go on working with PAS
PAS leaders insist on Islamic law as DAP and PKR try to hush things
Najib: PAS' hudud all for gaining attention
DPM: M'sia not ready for hudud laws

71 students down with food poisoning after eating sambal sotong

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 03:16 AM PDT

ALOR SETAR: Seventy-one students from a school at Jalan Stadium here suffered food poisoning after consuming sambal sotong (chilli-based squids) at their hostel canteen Friday.

They were rushed to the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital on Saturday after suffering from stomach ache, nausea, dizziness, vomitting and diarrhoea.

The students, aged between 15 and 17, had consumed the food during dinner.

Hospital Emergency Department head Dr Fatahul Laham Mohamed said the students were sent there in two buses at about 9.15pm.

He said the 40 boys and 31 girls were given outpatient treatment and they returned to their hostel the same night.

State Health Department deputy director Dr Hayati Mohd Radzi said food samples from the canteen had been taken for testing.

"Our initial investigations showed that all the students had consumed sambal sotong.

"We have ordered the canteen to be temporarily closed for cleaning," she said.

Dr Hayati said the canteen would only be allowed to be re-opened after the department was satisfied it met hygiene standards.

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Lust for life

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 12:19 AM PDT

A boy's thirst for adventure is only limited by his imagination.

The Cat's Table

Author: Michael Ondaatje

Publisher: Jonathan Cape, 287 pages

ISBN: 978-0-224-093620

THERE is a story, always ahead of you. Barely existing. Only gradually do you attach yourself to it and feed it. You discover the carapace that will contain and test your character. You will find this way in the path of your life."

Michael Ondaatje is most universally known for writing The English Patient. The novel won the Booker Prize and the film based on it glided up the red carpet to received multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Film.

Ondaatje is only known in smaller circles for his poetry. He used to be far more prolific as a poet than as a novelist, and although he has concentrated more on novels during the past decade, his prose hums and breathes like poetry, often tempting the reader to stop and read a line again, out loud, committing it to memory.

As the narrator of such language, Ondaatje could have hardly picked a better conduit than 11-year-old Michael.

Michael describes himself as a feral child. Neither poor, nor homeless, nor an orphan, adults take little interest in his comings and goings. His true life and his true joy are in the perfect freedom of unsupervised hours, free imagination and a kid's untethered lust for adventure.

When we first meet Michael, he is alone and in a daze, boarding an ocean liner to leave his native Sri Lanka and head for England. He is to reunite with a mother he barely knows, and continue his studies.

However, he adapts quickly, as feral children do, and immediately finds and makes friends with two other boys. On the Oronsay, this sea-crossing "castle", they pledge that each day they will do "at least one thing that was forbidden".

Michael meets these two friends at his assigned dining table for meals, the so-called "Cat's Table". It is populated by the ship's leftover passengers, the ones that could not be fitted in elsewhere, even if there had been interest or effort involved.

To the boys, they are invaluable resources of the true stories behind ship gossip, dirty jokes, and knowledge of the ship's nooks and crannies.

Between their companions at the cat's table, Michael also has occasional access to first class gossip provided by a bored "aunty" who knows his family, and sometimes, grudgingly, has him over for tea; his favourite cousin Emily (departing from Colombo, Michael inevitably runs into a few people he knows); a roommate who is in charge of the dog kennels and holds card games in their cabin at night; and his own tireless explorations with his friends. It is tough to believe anyone on the ship is wiser to its workings and population than this little boy.

Although everyone on board knows of a prisoner – a murderer – is being transported, only the boys see him regularly. Early on, they take possession of lifeboats as a sort of clubhouse for their meals and as observation points.

Every night they sit and wait for the prisoner to be brought onto deck, hands manacled and chained to a metal collar, to walk and take a few short breaths of fresh air.

They never show themselves, of course, but get a thrill from the mere proximity to someone so obviously dangerous.

Michael's ample supply of ingenuousness and curiosity makes him a direct participant of the ship's greatest scandals and events. When precious objects go missing from locked cabins, he knows where they have gone. When the most important passenger dies during the journey, Michael knows how it happened.

When a terrible storm makes things dangerous even for those huddled inside the ship, only Michael and one of his friends remain outside, drenched, close to drowned, and only by a miracle they survive.

Ondaatje arranges the boy's experiences in bite-sized chapters. The reader experiences them the way active children do, one intense flash after another. The previous moment is not so much forgotten as set aside, stored to be digested at a much later date. Perhaps only in adulthood.

Children do not see people as a compilation of physical features or even as complex beings – they see them for who they are at the time their paths cross. They see life in the same way. There is no "big picture", only countless vivid snapshots. Children do not waste their time pondering the possibility of "never again", but at times Ondaatje tosses us decades into the future.

To an adult Michael (to all adults), the past is precious and memories of free and happy times are weighed down by the ache of nostalgia.

The Cat's Table is a deeply pleasurable read. Despite the ship being larger and more populated than any place Michael ever experienced in Sri Lanka, three weeks on board shrink it.

Connections slowly appear between passenger and events, including a surprising one that links Michael to someone who knows someone who knows the prisoner.


Posted: 25 Sep 2011 12:16 AM PDT

FOR the month of September, 2011:


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

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

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

4. The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

5. A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard

6. No Excuses! The Power Of Self-Discipline: 21 Ways To Achieve Lasting Happiness And Success by Brian Tracy

7. Quantum Leaps: 100 Scientists Who Changed The World by Jon Balchin

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

9. Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

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


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

2. The Confession by John Grisham

3. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

4. Room by Emma Donoghue

5. Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett

6. I Don't Know How She Does It (Movie Tie-In) by Allison Pearson

7. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

8. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

9. A Dance With Dragons (A Song Of Ice And Fire #5) by George R.R. Martin

10. Family Ties by Danielle Steel

> Monthly list compiled by MPH Bookstores, Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur.

Cultivating mind and heart

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 12:16 AM PDT

More than 100 authors from various parts of the world will be gracing this year's Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Indonesia.

WHAT started as an economic development project after the 2002 Bali bombing in Indonesia has become an annual event that is one of the largest literary gatherings in the region. Held each October to commemorate the first bombing in 2002, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is now in its eighth year.

Bringing together writers, publishers, academics and readers from all over the world, the event this Oct 5-9 will be filled with readings, workshops, panel discussions, literary lunches, debates, book launches and performances.

More than a hundred authors from various parts of the world – Australia, Colombia, Cuba, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, as well as the United States and Europe – have confirmed their participation.

Among them are Alexander McCall Smith (the 44 Scotland Street series), Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones), DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little), Dipika Rai (Someone Else's Garden), Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao) and musician Paul Kelly (How To Make Gravy). Malaysia's Sharon Bakar and Uthaya Sankar will be there as well.

This year's theme, Nandurin Karang AwakCultivate The Land Within, is inspired by a line from Gaguritan Salampah Laku, a long poem in traditional metre composed by one of Bali's most respected poets, high priest Ida Pedanda Made Sidemen, who lived to the ripe old age of 126: "My intention now – pursuing this life of simplicity, since I possess no rice fields – is to cultivate the land within myself ..."

The festival, with first-time sponsor ANZ Bank, will commence with a tribute to the poet. On its website (ubudwritersfestival.com), festival founder and director Janet De Neefe says: "Developing the self in ways similar to cultivating rice fields, by sowing the seeds of truths, cutting down the stalks of desires, and carefully reaping a bountiful harvest for the finest grain, is an important philosophical concept in the spiritual landscape of Bali.

"At a time in history when disputes over borders, sovereignty, resources, culture and economics are more acute than ever, we must remember that the greatest shared space in the world is in the mind and the heart. The 2011 Festival theme is devoted to redefining the boundaries of consciousness and connection with the vast, rich and mysterious territory within."

Most sessions will be held in English. Translators will be present for those conducted in Bahasa Indonesia. – Rouwen Lin

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