Selasa, 27 September 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. listeria outbreak kills 13, infects 72 - CDC

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 08:58 PM PDT

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes from Colorado has infected 72 people in the United States and killed 13, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday.

The foodborne outbreak is the deadliest in the United States in more than a decade, exceeding the 2008-2009 salmonella outbreak from tainted peanuts that killed nine and infected more than 700 people in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, 18 states have reported infections from one of the four strains of listeria involved in the outbreak, the CDC said.

Of the 13 deaths, four were in New Mexico, two were in Colorado, two were in Texas, and there was one each in Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

All of the illnesses started on or after July 31.

The CDC has traced the source of the outbreak to cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Granada, Colorado.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed that it found Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterial strain found in the tainted cantaloupes, in samples of melons from Jensen Farms.

The company issued a recall on Sept. 14 of its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes in response to the outbreak. The fruit was shipped to at least 17 states from July 29 through Sept. 10, 2011.

The FDA has advised consumers to throw out the recalled melons.

Listeria bacteria thrive in low temperatures. Outbreaks are usually associated with deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses and smoked refrigerated seafood products.

The outbreak in melons is the deadliest in the United States since a 1998 multistate Listeria outbreak involving contaminated hot dogs and deli meats that killed 32 people and sickened 101.

According to the CDC, some 1,600 people become sick with listeriosis and 260 of them die from the infections.


People with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than healthy adults to get listeriosis and people with AIDS are nearly 300 times more likely to get the infection than healthy people, the CDC said on its website.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, said the outbreak underscores the need for the FDA to issue guidelines and regulations to help keep pathogens out of produce.

According to the group, melons have caused at least 36 outbreaks of foodborne disease since 1990, although this is the first attributed to Listeria.

Earlier this year, more than 4,100 people in Europe and North America were infected in two outbreaks of E. coli infection linked with sprouted seeds imported from Egypt. The infection killed 48 people in Germany and one person in Sweden.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

Philippines counts cost as Typhoon Nesat departs

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 08:58 PM PDT

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines began on Wednesday the clean-up of flooded areas and assessments of damage, including to the key rice crop, a day after Typhoon Nesat left behind at least 18 dead.

Financial markets, government offices and some schools reopened after being closed by the typhoon, and train services resumed after power supplies were restored in the capital.

Residents wade on waist deep floodwaters brought by Typhoon Nesat, locally known as Pedring, that hit the Tanza town of Malabon city, north of Manila September 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Stringer)

The death toll had been raised from seven on Tuesday evening, and there were still 35 people missing, the national disaster agency said in a morning update as the typhoon moved over the South China Sea and towards northern Vietnam and southern China.

There were still nearly 48,000 people in evacuation centres, the agency added.

It put initial estimates of damage at 100.3 million pesos, ($2.3 million), including 16.2 million pesos of damage to agriculture. The Department of Agriculture said it may also release its preliminary damage estimates on Wednesday.

The storm passed across the Cagayan Valley, which was expected to account for about 10 percent of the country's fourth-quarter rice crop.

The government had cut rice imports this year to about 860,000 tonnes from a record 2.45 million tonnes in 2010, and plans to make the country self-sufficient in its national staple in coming years.

But any major damage to crops could force it to import more supplies, at a time when rice prices are rising.

There was flooding across provinces in the north of Luzon, the Philippines' main island, and authorities maintained warnings of storm surges and flash flooding.

"People have to realise now, with the changing climate, typhoons are getting stronger, the pull of the monsoon is getting stronger," Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said in a television interview.

The sea wall at Manila Bay was badly damaged by storm surges, which swamped Roxas Boulevard and other waterfront areas, keeping the U.S. embassy shut again on Wednesday.

As Nesat departed, weather officials warned another was developing in the Pacific Ocean that could pick up strength and become a typhoon as it approaches north Luzon.

"Our initial track line shows it may hit northern Luzon. But it may be too early to tell because it might still change course," Yumul said.

(Reporting by John Mair; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

China officials probe Shanghai subway train crash

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 08:28 PM PDT

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese officials on Wednesday investigated what caused two subway trains to crash in central Shanghai, injuring more than 270 passengers and dealing another blow to the country's railway system.

Coming just two months after a deadly collision between two high-speed overland trains, Tuesday's accident renewed public fears about China's aggressive rail building plans.

Rescue workers evacuate an injured man in the underground tunnel of Yu Yuan Garden station after a subway train collision in Shanghai September 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Stringer)

The subway crash occurred after a failure in the signal system of Shanghai Metro forced staff to direct trains by telephone, but official newspapers said the company which manages the underground, and some of its staff, may also be to blame.

"The accident occurred at a time when the trains were being directed manually, would that make a difference in determining who's responsible?" reported the 21st Century Business Herald.

"After the signal failure, conductors, coordinators and drivers were all working, how could the collision have happened?"

The Shanghai government and an outside investigative team were examining the crash which happened near the well-known Yu Yuan garden, leaving 20 critically injured, officials said at news conference late on Tuesday.

Parts of Line 10 on which the accident occurred were closed on Wednesday but other lines were operating normally. Shanghai has 11 lines running on more than 400 km of track, as well as a link to its main international airport.

Xinhua news agency said the signal systems used on the line were made by Casco Signal Ltd, a joint venture between China Railway Signal and Communication Corp and French power and transport engineering group Alstom.

Casco also supplied systems on the railway line where two high-speed trains crashed in July, killing 40 people, Xinhua added.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Daniel Magnowski)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Special duties

Posted: 28 Sep 2011 03:37 AM PDT

A secretary is tasked to make a man out of her immature, work-adverse boss, not coffee.

THE premise is comedy gold: No Eun Seol (Choi Kang Hee), a young woman with a delinquent past, becomes the secretary of Cha Ji Heon (Ji Sung), the son of the DN Group chairman. He is lazy, immature and totally unfit to be a director in his father's company, so the chairman tells Eun Seol to straighten him out. Ji Heon is too obstinate for that, of course. But the two eventually find more than a common ground ...

Initially, Protect The Boss may seem like a straightforward screwball comedy with a nice dose of romance. But while it's certainly that, it turned out to be surprisingly more complex and endearing than expected.

At the heart of the drama is the tale of two underdogs: Ji Heon and Eun Seol. And we always enjoy watching underdogs succeed despite the odds.

Ji Heon may be a boor at first, but has a painful secret he hides from everyone, especially from his domineering dad. Eun Seol is a graduate from a third-rate university and is rejected by the corporate world because of it. She is tough, yet compassionate and is probably the strongest and most likeable K-drama heroine I've seen.

Protect The Boss' excellent script ensures that it's not just funny, but has a story with depth. Interestingly, conflicts are resolved so quickly in this show that this initially worried me.

A drama with too little tension could get boring, but I soon realised that the writers are not interested in creating as much drama as possible. They want to tell the story of the Cha family: how Ji Heon, his father, his grandmother and his cousin Cha Moo Won (South Korean pop idol Kim Jae Joong) and aunt Suk Hee (Cha Hwa Yun) interact with one another. Sure, they may scheme and plot like typical K-drama chaebol (conglomerate) families, but they are actually quite fond of each other. If you look really deep inside, that is.

What's absolutely delightful are the likeable and three dimensional characters. Yes, even the "villains" are loveable. At first, Moo Won seemed to be the obvious antagonist. Despite his business acumen, he has to watch Ji Heon being picked as the one to take over the company. Therefore, Moo Won and his mother Suk Hui scheme and plot to grab the top spot from Ji Heon. Yet, they are not just sympathetic characters but funny as well.

For example, Moo Won does what he has to do because he feels obligated to take over the company that was formerly his father's but has landed in the hands of his uncle.

His mother may be ambitious, but she has a good reason to be upset over how her son is unfairly treated. And then there's Chairman Cha, Ji Heon's dad, who seems like a typical chaebol tyrant who wants his son to be an extension of himself.

But it turns that he also really cares for his son even if his methods are suspect.

Seo Nayun (Wang Ji Hye), being the second lead actress, should have been the scheming woman who would get in between the lovebirds so that she have Ji Heon all to herself. But while she may have shades of that, Nayun turns out to have a soft heart and is incredibly funny too.

The tweaking of K-drama cliches here is refreshing.

Another factor that drew me to Protect The Boss is Ji Sung. He first caught my attention in the 2004 melodrama Save The Last Dance For Me. While the drama was rife with soap opera cliches (his character had amnesia – twice) I was impressed by his natural screen presence and acting ability. His later dramas – medical drama New Heart, costume drama Kim So Roo, revenge thriller Swallow The Sun and chaebol melodrama Royal Family proved just how talented he was, but they were all serious roles.

Protect The Boss is Ji Sung's first comedic role, and since he is a newbie in this genre, I watched the first episode with equal measures of excitement and trepidation. He ended up being a wonderful revelation. Ji Sung is such a natural at comedy that it's a pity that he waited this long to be in a romantic comedy! Also, he is able to convey Ji Heon's many facets – his immaturity, vulnerability and high principles – effortlessly.

His leading lady, Choi, is as talented; she's the one with a thousand faces – her expressions can just make you burst into guffaws. The supporting cast is as funny (though Jaejoong, while adequate, doesn't quite match up to his seniors). Park is particularly hilarious as the fierce and domineering Chairman Cha.

With its excellent cast, amazing actors and near-perfect storytelling, Protect The Boss is a rare gem: a Korean drama so good that it ensures repeat viewing, and with characters so loveable that you root for everyone – even the villains!

Protect The Boss airs every Monday and Tuesday on One HD (Astro Ch 393) at 9.05pm.

Going the distance

Posted: 28 Sep 2011 02:44 AM PDT

Deejays Rudy and Jeremy led some listeners on one great chase.

WELL-KNOWN for going the distance to entertain listeners, Rudy and Jeremy have done just that with a trip to Seremban and Malacca for the Red FM's Runaway DJs contest.

The witty hosts of Red FM's Breakfast Show (Monday to Friday, 6am-10am) went on the loose and took off in a Proton Inspira, leading a chase across state lines.

Waiting for their arrival in Seremban was Bong Yen Booi. Following the clues given out on air, Bong anticipated their location and found the deejays at a shopping mall.

Rudy and Jeremy's next stop in Malacca was intercepted by Hafnizam Ahmad. Based in Kuala Lumpur, he "caught" the deejays following the trail of clues left on the duo's morning show.

Besides these two outstation stops, listeners have also tracked Rudy and Jeremy down in Kuala Lumpur. With a Proton Inspira as the ultimate grand prize, it's a highly contested race as each participant is hoping to be the lucky winner to drive it away.

Every Monday to Friday, the Red FM's Runaway DJs have been going out and about to various secret locations. The first listener to turn up at the correct location and identify Red FM's Runaway DJ of the day receives a key to go into the running to win a car.

The hunt ends tomorrow, so you have a limited time to grab the key to enter the finale. Join in and you could have a winning story of your own to share.

In addition to the key, bonus prizes such as cash, iPad 2s and iPod Nanos are also given out. Tune in as clues to their whereabouts are given out on-air as well as through the station's website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

The thrilling finale will be held on Friday at Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, where contestants will find out who drives away with a brand new Proton Inspira!

Check out for the terms and conditions of the contest. Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page ( and follow them on Twitter (@iloveredfm) for the latest updates of the contest.

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.


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

SP Setia receives takeover offer from PNB

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 07:41 PM PDT

Published: Wednesday September 28, 2011 MYT 10:41:00 AM

PETAING JAYA: Property developer SP Setia has received a conditional takeover offer from major shareholder Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB).

According to SP Setia's 2010 annual report, PNB held a direct 6.62% stake in the company.

The company said it has requested that the suspension of the trading of its shares be extended to 5pm today.

Renewed hopes on euro-zone progress lifts Asian bourses

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 07:19 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Asian markets mostly traded higher Wednesday morning on news that progress is being made to resolve the euro-zone crisis including Greece's debt problems and following gains in US and European markets.

HwangDBS Vickers Research said in a report that the local bourse would strive to hold on to gains made yesterday but might struggle to climb towards the immediate resistance threshold of 1,395 in the near-term.

The benchmark FBM KLCI opened in positive territory but trading has been volatile in the past hour with the index up marginally to 1,364.65 at 10am. Singapore's Straits Times Index fell half-a-percent to 2,713.10.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added a fifth of a percent to 8,625.40 at the midday break, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged 1.29% to 17,896.01, Seoul's Kospi Index gained a third of a percent to 1,741.29 and Shanghai's A share index was a third of a percent higher at 2,422.60.

At Bursa Malaysia, advancers outpaced decliners 207 to 181 while 198 other counters were traded unchanged. There were 209.75 million shares traded with a total turnover of RM279.75 million.

Bluechip stocks led gains on the local bourse with BAT up 40 sen to RM44.42 and DiGi gaining 26 sen to RM30.26.

Genting Malaysia added 12 sen to RM3.36, Gamuda was 12 sen higher at RM2.86, Bursa gained 11 sen to RM6.02 and Maybank added 9 sen to RM7.96.

Commodities continued to lose ground with Nymex crude oil in electronic trade down US$1.28 to US$83.17 per barrel at 10am.

Spot gold remained under downward pressure with the precious metal's prices fluctuating between US$1,633 to US$1,637 per ounce, losing between US$13 and US$17.

The ringgit was quoted at 3.147 to the US dollar and 4.274 to the euro.

Consumer morale stagnates; home prices steady

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 06:02 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans worried about their incomes as they struggled to find work in September, holding consumer confidence near 2-1/2-year lows and pointing to weak spending in the months ahead.

Other reports on Tuesday on regional manufacturing and services showed some improvement this month, and house prices stabilized in July, supporting hopes that slow growth will continue as long as Europe's debt crisis does not escalate.

But depressed consumer and business sentiment is holding back recovery. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes was little changed at 45.4 this month from 45.2 in August. Economists had expected a rise to 46.0.

"Consumers appear to have lost some hope in this recovery and may cause them to retrench spending, which could augur poorly for the recovery," said Millan Mulraine, a senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.

Details of the confidence report were mixed. More Americans plan to buy houses over the next six months, but fewer intend to purchase cars and other big-ticket items.

The steep stock market sell-off, political bickering in Washington over budget policy and the worsening debt crisis in Europe all have eroded confidence, viewed as a key gauge of consumer health.

Consumer spending data on Friday will shed more light whether the decline in equities -- with the Standard & Poor's 500 index down 13 percent since late July -- caused households to hunker down. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, slowed sharply in the second quarter.

Consumer pessimism and a tough jobs market are creating a "titanic" struggle for President Barack Obama in his bid for reelection, his senior campaign adviser, David Axelrod, said on Tuesday.

Markets, however, were focused on Europe's debt crisis, and hopes the euro zone would beef up a rescue fund lifted U.S. stocks for a second day and pushed government debt prices lower, while the dollar lost ground to the euro.


Increased economic uncertainty is also weighing on confidence among small U.S. businesses. Vistage International said its confidence index, which surveys 1,700 chief executives, fell to a two-year low in the third quarter at 83.5 from a 92.9 reading in the second quarter.

There were glimmers of hope for the economy, which barely grew in the first half of the year, with data showing manufacturing activity in the U.S. central Atlantic region contracted at a slower pace this month.

The Richmond Federal Reserve's manufacturing index improved to -6 from -10 in August, while activity in the Texas services sector grew solidly this month. The Dallas Fed service sector revenues index rose to 14.1 from 3.2 in August.

There were signs of stability in the housing market, with the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of single-family homes in 20 metropolitan areas unchanged in July on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Unadjusted prices in the 20 cities rose 0.9 percent.

But Yale University economist Robert Shiller, who co-founded the index, said U.S. house prices might fall further given the range of uncertainties hampering the market.

"There's a lot of people that are worried about their jobs and that's why the outlook for housing is not for any resumption of a boom any time soon," he told Reuters Insider.


In a sign that the labor market remains challenging, the jobs-hard-to-get index in the Conference Board survey rose to 50.0, the highest level since May 1983, from 48.5 the previous month. The labor market differential -- the percent reporting jobs plentiful less the percent reporting jobs hard-to-get -- widened to -44.5 in September from -43.7 in August.

"It's a bad sign for September payrolls. It's consistent with what we saw in the trend in jobless claims, which have risen also in recent weeks," said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

The government will issue its closely watch monthly payrolls report for September on October 7.

Nissan Motor Co Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said U.S. auto sales are holding their ground and should improve in 2012.

"So far there is no sign of weakening in the automotive sector, so at the end of September I think this industry is going to be way in advance compared to last year," Ghosn said in a Reuters Insider interview.

Retailers gave mixed views on consumer spending. Walgreen Co, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, reported a healthy rise in sales in its latest quarter and an increase in the number of shoppers.

But the chief executive of Best Buy Co, Brian Dunn, told Reuters that the weak economy makes the retail outlook for the holiday more difficult.

"The consumer is being really careful about where he or she is spending the dollars, and I think that will continue through the holidays," Dunn said.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

A tale of forbidden love

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 03:10 AM PDT

The Sorcerer And The White Snake is a Chinese classic with a fresh twist.

WITH such an ominous sounding title, The Sorcerer And The White Snake is actually a love story packaged in an action-packed fantasy epic.

Formerly known as It's Love and Madame White Snake, The Sorcerer And The White Snake is based on the oft-told Chinese classic Legend Of The White Snake, a delightful affair which movie buffs will remember was best told in Tsui Hark's 1993 Green Snake (starring Maggie Cheung, Joey Wang, Vincent Zhao and Wu Hsing Kuo).

Helmed by multiple award-winning Hong Kong action choreographer-turned-director Tony Ching Siu-tung, the updated fantasy romance stars Jet Li, Eva Huang, Raymond Lam, Charlene Choi, Vivian Hsu and Wen Zhang.

Playing the star-crossed lovers White Snake and Xu Xian, Chinese actress Huang, 28, and Hong Kong actor Lam, 31, spoke of their experiences on the set of The Sorcerer And The White Snake in separate phone interviews from Hong Kong recently.

Portraying the dashing herbalist Xu Xian in the movie, Lam reportedly beat Taiwanese actors like Ethan Ruan, Mark Chao and Peter Ho to win the coveted role.

"Tony and Jet are both my idols. I've watched practically every movie of theirs. When I first heard that I was offered the role, I was both surprised and elated. While I was very happy, I was also nervous because this was a classic tale after all. And with classics, everybody already has preconceived notions about the characters in the story. So our interpretation of these characters may not be the same as what others have in mind.

"I feel that this version of the character I play is very different from previous renditions. Other interpretations of Xu Xian that I've seen have always portrayed him as a weak and timid fellow. I don't recall him doing anything for White Snake at all. It's always White Snake who sacrifices everything for him, never the other way round.

"This version is different and should appeal to the youth of today who will identify with how beautifully tragic this classic romance truly is. In the end, it takes mutual sacrifice to touch people's hearts. So, I feel this version of Xu Xian is more of a man," Lam declared to laughs all around.

Queried about his underwater love scene with Huang, Lam said the scene was very romantic but also very challenging.

"Because of the long hours of being submerged underwater, we were soaked till our skin was all wrinkled. The scene took two days to film and was the most difficult of all. Being a costume flick, taking to the water is quite difficult. Moreover, there were two of us to manoeuvre. The outcome may look very beautiful, but it was truly difficult to film in the water."

During the second day of filming in the swimming pool, Lam also related how they were wrapping their last shot when more anti-bacterial chemicals were added into the water.

"My eyes started to tear and redden, until I couldn't even open them. I had to rest for awhile.

"That particular scene was not a very long one but it took two days to film due to factors that were beyond our control, in particular Eva's hair and her costume.

"It was an action shot requiring constant movement, and a very romantic scene to film. Sometimes her hair would get in the way, obstructing the frame or obscuring the face. And at other times, her robes did not float as beautifully as intended. So, that scene alone required dozens of takes," Lam lamented

Taking on the physically challenging role of White Snake who had to combat sorcerers, fairies, goblins and demons alike, Huang had even more action scenes which required lots of wire work.

"After many years of shooting action epics, Tony wanted to experiment with fresh elements. Hence, there were lots of very difficult action sequences and stuff that has never been seen before this.

"It's not as simple as just flying around any more. Now, there are lots of spinning around in mid-air and coordination with other stunts and special equipment. The scenes were very difficult so I'm lucky in that I did not suffer from any serious injuries. There were some bumps and bruises or grazes and sometimes even chaffing or swelling caused by the wires. They were just minor injuries so I count myself very fortunate indeed," shared the slender lass.

"Whether it's the action or emotion, its all been quite challenging. From leaping off the edge of the cliff to being submerged underwater for days and suspended from various wires plus fighting with Jet Li," enthused Huang, who is starring in one of her biggest roles to-date.

"When it came to the emotional scenes, there'd be a fan blowing in my face all the time, to give my long hair and flowy robes that ethereal effect. But, with the huge fan blowing so strongly in my face, even very simple lines took a lot of effort. While the result was really beautiful, filming was very tough. Plus it was winter with temperatures below zero, and I was wearing such sheer and skimpy materials. Even my lips felt like they were in constant combat."

Production on the Chinese blockbuster (available in 3D in Hong Kong and China) commenced in September last year and ended in January this year. The film was screened out of competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival early this month.

The tale revolves around White Snake (Huang) and Green Snake (Choi), who are serpents whose thousand years of spiritual training have accorded them immortality, super powers and the ability to morph into human form. In the guise of beautiful women, they mingle freely with unsuspecting humans.

White Snake falls in love with herbalist Xu Xian, so they get married with the help of Green Snake. However, this doesn't go down well with sorcerer monk Fa Hai (Li), who feels such relationships are against the laws of nature. Meanwhile, his disciple Nengren (Wen) is drawn to Green Snake.

Also, they have to contend with an assortment of other worldly creatures like the Snow Goblin (Hsu), Rabbit Devil (Miriam Yeung), Toad Monster (Chapman To), Turtle Devil (Jiang Wu) and Chicken Devil (Lam Suet).

The Sorcerer And The White Snake opens in local cinemas on Thursday.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

A book on the natural attractions of Perak

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 03:36 AM PDT

The natural treasures of Perak is showcased in a new book.

WHEN the idea of a coffee-table book on the natural attractions of the state of Perak was broached, photographer Omar Ariff Kamarul Ariffin was doubtful if he could get the job done. But he need not have worried. In the end, the book is a hefty 320-pages thick and he reluctantly had to leave out many images.

"I would have continued photographing, if I hadn't stop myself," confesses the 45-year-old photographer. "Initially, I was sceptical as the only well-known nature spot in Perak is the Belum forest. And you usually associate nature photography with Sabah, Sarawak and Taman Negara. But after researching, I found that the state has many interesting places."

Perak eventually offered Omar a diverse range of landscapes to shoot at, from the archaeological dig at Lenggong Valley to the limestone caves of Kinta Valley, lowland forests of Lata Kekabu and Ulu Kenas, mangroves of Lumut and Matang, highland forest of Bukit Larut, riverine reserves of Sungai Perak, and even the mining ponds of Batu Gajah.

The result is that Perak – The Natural Heritage brims over with stunning images of birds, insects, snakes, lizards, frogs, tortoises and mammals which inhabit the state's wilderness.

The Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah had commissioned the book to promote the state's unique natural wonders. In the foreword, he wrote of a childhood spent exploring the state's stunning natural and historical features, which cultivated in him a love and appreciation of the environment.

"The book offers a glimpse into the astounding natural treasures of Perak and it is my hope that it will persuade many readers to visit this beautiful state," he wrote.

Omar says the book gives readers an idea of the different and varied wildlife of Perak. "The landscapes are different and so are the animals. I am extremely lucky that Tuanku has given me the chance to come out with the book."

Nature fascinates the photographer who has two previous publications – Pusaka Bumi and Corak (patterns in nature up close, compiled with proverbs from 80 countries) – on the topic, out of the nine that he has published over a span of 15 years.

"(With nature) you never know what to expect. It is not like photographing the F1 (which he has done several times) where you know what is to come, when the car will turn round the bend. You can set your camera up, chit-chat with people, and then press the trigger at the right time. In the forest, it is never the same. The scenery, the kind of animals you see, they are different with each visit and changes, before and after a downpour."

Fresh angles

This is not the first coffee-table book featuring Perak's natural attractions but Omar made his different by his trademark close-up angles. This renders stunning shots such as those detailing the elaborate scales of a snake's body, the rainbow of hues on the agamid lizard and the aggressive stance of the mantis about to pounce on an attacker.

"I don't like it to be obvious, (for) then it becomes predictable. That's what I like about nature photography," says Omar, who honed his skills in macro photography in the marine realm when he was a dive instructor in the 1990s. He ventured into photography full-time in the late 1990s, shooting special events and commissioned projects, such as the Petronas four-wheel drive expeditions which took him to Africa and Siberia.

He started work on Perak – The Natural Heritage in early 2008, finally completing it two and a half years later. To ensure a top-notch product, he fussed over the project and made it a point to work with an acclaimed publisher and sought out quality paper and binding. So readers are rewarded with a visual feast of photos so brilliant and sharp that the animals appear life-like; you can even make out the fines lines on the Asian fairy bluebird's plumage and the specks of dirt on the fire-tufted barbet's bill.

Flipping through his book is like going armchair trekking: you get to see a myriad of creatures without having to don boots or work up a sweat. In fact, these are creatures you are unlikely to spot in the forest, either for lack of a sharp eye or because you just do not know where to look.

Omar has portrayed cryptic creatures which otherwise would have gone unnoticed or are too well-camouflaged to be discernible: the glow worm which is actually a stick-like beetle; the katydid that mimics a leaf; the mantis that could pass off as an orchid bloom; and the bristle-sporting David Bowie spider.

And hard as it may be to like the tiger leech, it actually is quite pretty when magnified, sporting brilliant stripes of red, yellow and green.

To best capture nature, Omar took time to study and understand animal behaviour. "That's also what makes nature interesting. You learn along the way. And you have to let the animals get comfortable with you."

To shoot a mangrove crab, for instance, he waited patiently in his boat for over 15 minutes until the crab emerged from the mudflats and slowly climbed up a tree.

The quest for perfection saw him seeking out different facets of animal behaviour. The Indo-Malayan bamboo rat was snapped with its mouth agape and the long-tailed macaque, while prying open a cockle. One shot has readers staring into the throat of the mangrove snake while in another, the blue-winged pitta grappled with a wriggling worm.

Helpful guides

He photographed the animals in their natural habitats, and mostly at night as that is the time when his favourite subjects, frogs and geckos, are most active. Also, the cloak of darkness gives his images a clean, uncluttered background. He explains that it is also easier to shoot birds at night as they will be perched and sleeping.

I had to pose THE question: Did he see any tigers?

"No, didn't even hear them. You'll have to be very lucky to see or hear them."

But the forests of Perak have lots of other wild and rare inhabitants to excite him, such as the green land snail that is found only in the state, the leaf insect that exists only in the vicinity of Jalan Pahang (on the way to Cameron Highlands), and other seldom-sighted species such as the vampire crab and cinnamon tree frog.

Many were spotted only because of his knowledgeable and sharp-eyed orang asli guides whom he depended on totally while in the jungle environment, which can be harsh at times. They were the ones who kept him safe and helped weed out rare wildlife for him to photograph.

"When you're in the jungle, you really want to be with people you trust, people who can help you find your way out should you get lost. To really appreciate the place you're going to, you need to have the sifu (expert) of the place," says Omar.

He also has his guides to thank for reaching some really wild, obscure places, such as the forests of Ulu Slim in southern Perak, where few have ventured. There, Omar photographed the rarely-visited Menau Falls which is accessible only by four-wheel drive, and animals such as the striped coral snake, mahogany frog and banded kingfisher.

He has also entered caves with beautifully lit chambers which few have stepped into, and reachable only with the right guide. Shooting caves prove to be a real challenge.

"You have to be there at the right time for the light to come into the cave chamber. Sometimes, after trekking for an hour to get there, you wonder if there is going to be clouds, rain or the right light." So getting that perfect shot might entail several trips.

Unrelenting in his pursuit of new subjects to photograph and that rare species, he would rush over whenever he gets a call from his guides. So while working on the book, it was quite normal for him to leave Kuala Lumpur at 3pm, reach Ipoh at 5pm and head into the forest at 6pm. He would be in the forest until 11pm, and then start driving back to the city.

"The orang asli have many stories and myths about the forest. Once, I photographed a slow loris right up to 2am. Driving back on my own, I started recalling all the stories about how the slow loris is an omen of death and usually found in cemeteries." Needless to say, he sped up after that.

He has had to camp out in the jungle, and sleep in his four-wheel drive, a lorry and even in caves, with only a fire to keep animals away. He has been bitten by spiders and insects but when it comes to poisonous snakes, his guides would alert him and ensure that he keep his distance.

"There were times when I wondered if my four-wheel could get back, as we were so deep in old logging trails. And what happens if it goes off into a ravine?" So he practises caution and always carries a satellite phone with him.

Much to learn

One of his favourite places to photograph is Jalan Pahang which winds up mountainous areas towards the town of Tapah in Cameron Highlands.

"It is an insects' world here because of the climb in elevation. I like insects as they make dramatic pictures."

Photographs of many rare species never made it to the book, however, as Omar did not deem them good enough. The selected images are what he considers his best shots.

"I want pictures that speak to you. That is why I focus on the subject's eyes and try to get eye contact in my pictures."

His most satisfying photo in the whole book is that of three smooth otters – part of a group of 20 – scurrying in the mudflats of Sungai Sepetang. "They're not easily located and are difficult to photograph in the wild. I was quite far away and used a 600mm lens to shoot. I'm always looking for them and I finally got a nice image of them, in a line and with birds in the background."

It was not always about photographing wildlife, however. It was also a learning experience for with each foray into the wilderness, he got fresh insight into animal behaviour and made new discoveries.

"Some snakes will still be at the same place when I return the next day. They feed, and then rest." He also learnt that the trio of tailorbirds which he had photographed, huddled together and faced different directions in their slumber, for safety's sake.

And all those claims about jungle plants and animal organs being sex-boosting? Mostly untruths. "Rarely have I met an orang asli who eats something for its aphrodisiac value. For medicinal purposes, yes," shares Omar.

It was a tough decision when to wrap up fieldwork for each time he felt he had collected enough images, the jungle – and his guides – summoned him back. "I'd get a call, saying they've found something new. I could have gone on photographing and had to put a stop to it."

Omar is hopeful that the book, apart from giving glimpses of the wilds of Perak, will spur people to preserve these natural spaces and creatures for the future. This, too, is the aim of Raja Dr Nazrin, who wrote in the foreword: "I hope the extraordinary pictures contained herein will inspire a greater appreciation of the need for sustained conservation of these spaces. We must never allow short-sighted objectives to jeopardise our priceless heritage. We must instead do all we can to ensure it is passed on to future generations in its current condition."

The many images left out of the book will not go to waste; Omar intends to use them for future publications. So there should be more wonderful coffee-table books celebrating nature from this photographer to look out for.

Perak – The Natural Heritage is available at Kinokuniya and Borders.

Big Bad Wolf book sale returns next month

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 10:25 PM PDT

THE fourth edition of the Big Bad Wolf book sale is back — and this year the wolf's spine-tingling howl is louder than ever.

The book sale, touted to be the world's biggest book sale with more than 1.5 million books from across the world, is organised by BookXcess, a one-stop remainder book retail outlet located in Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya.

The event is scheduled to run from Oct 7 to 16 at an exhibition park in the Klang Valley.

"Organising the world's biggest book sale has always been a personal ambition," said BookXcess chief executive officer Andrew Yap.

"After almost a year of scrupulous planning, long hours of painstaking work, and travelling to major global capitals to source for the best-value books, the event is a reality."

The book sale, affectionately dubbed the Big Bad Wolf sale, attracted more than 80,000 fans last year.

The organisers hope to attract more than 500,000 fans this year.

All books in every category will be sold at discounts ranging from 75% to 95% of the usual retail price.

Avid readers and collectors will also be spoilt for choice with a wide selection ranging from latest paperbacks, coffee table books, box sets, pop-up art books, and backdated imported magazines – and something for everyone.

"We love books and it's our passion," said Yap, who runs the business with his wife Jacqueline Ng.

"Our greatest satisfaction comes from selling books at unbelievably low prices and making them available to the widest cross-section of book lovers."

The husband-and-wife team behind BookXcess has spared no effort to ensure that this year's Big Bad Wolf sale is an unqualified success.

"Our goal is to revive the joy of reading and make books available to all Malaysians at bargain prices," states Yap.

OCBC Bank is a partner for this year's sale. The bank will host a number of promotional activities in support of the Big Bad Wolf sale.

OCBC credit cardholders will also enjoy an additional 5% discount during the sale.

For details, log on to www. or


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EC: Over 69,000 names of dead voters removed from roll

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 07:00 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Election Commission (EC), with cooperation from the National Registration Department(NRD), removed 69,293 names of dead voters in the electoral roll between July and Sept 15 this year.

The EC also removed 1,068 names of voters who had been stripped of Malaysian citizenship by the NRD.

Its secretary Datuk Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria said the collaborative effort was meant to clean up the electoral roll as a continuous preparation to face the next general election.

He said the EC was also in the midst of investigating the status of 50,000 other voters in the roll to ensure that they would not make any mistakes in removing voters' names.

"The investigation requires the EC to refer and get the confirmation from various authorities including the NRD, Armed Forces and the Royal Malaysian Police concerning the voter's citizenship status and identity card numbers, as well as their status," he said in a statement.

Malaysia now has 12.3 million registered voters.

Umno Youth wants repeal of varsity law to give students more freedom

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 06:16 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: Umno Youth has called for a repeal to Section 15 of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 which prohibits students from any activities construed as expressing support, sympathy or opposition to political parties.

Its chief Khairy Jamaluddin said the request was made following a survey conducted by the movement among university students last year.

"We hope the government will study Section 15 to provide opportunities for students at institutions of higher learning to be directly involve in politics," he told reporters after the Umno Youth executive council meeting.

The move, he said, would be in line with the government's decision to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA). BERNAMA

PM: Affirmative actions should be based on meritocracy

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 06:09 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Affirmative action should be based on meritocracy where the "right bumiputra should be promoted," said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"We want to find good, talented and dedicated bumiputra who can succeed.

"If they succeed, the non-bumiputra will not begrudge them.

"They should also not depend on quotas as it will only make them rest on their laurels," the Prime Minister said at a dialogue session during the Khazanah Megatrends Forum 2011.

More in The Star Wednesday


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Metro Watch

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 06:27 AM PDT


Property owners of the Bukit Gasing and Taman Medan constituencies, especially those from Section 1 to 4 whose leases are due to expire within the next three to four years, can visit the registration centre at the MBPJ Arena Sports Centre, Jalan Selangor, Petaling Jaya today from 10am to 4pm. Applicants should bring along the original land title, official search (if not holding original title); two pieces of location plan verified by a Petaling District office surveyor; copies of IC, recent quit rent receipt and assessment receipt; permission letter from bank or individual (if title has charge/caveat); relevant fees; and application form to reapply for land.


Tung Shin Hospital is organising World Heart Day on Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm at the Multi Purpose Hall, Level 5, CMD. There will be free health screening, health care booth and discounted products, dietitian consultation, laughing therapy, qigong and lucky draw. Health talk is by consultant cardiologist Dr Chong Yoon Sin. Admission is free but seat is limited. To register, call Cheryl Chia at 03-2037 2288 ext 588 or 589; or 016-909 9665 or email cherylchia@


There will be free trial classes for Jazzercise, a fitness class that combines dance-based cardio with strength training and stretching to sculpt, tone and lengthen muscles for maximum fat burn. Choreographed to today's hottest music, Jazzercise is a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, pilates, yoga, and kickboxing. Class is held every Monday at 9.30am, Wednesday at 6.30pm and Friday at 9am at Plaza Mont Kiara. For more information, visit or call 019-233 2968.


The International Women's Association Kuala Lumpur (IWAKL) will have their annual International Food Fair and Bazaar 2011 on Oct 2 at the Corus Hotel from 10am to 5pm. The aim is to raise funds for Rumah Anak Kesayangku, Bukit Beruntung, a home for orphans, single mothers and the poor. Contact president Shakilah Meraslam for any queries at 03 - 6257 0717 / Fax: 03 - 6257 8727 / E-mail:


The Indiana State University- Malaysia Alumni will have a Raya gathering at the Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort this Saturday from 3pm-7pm. Call Hasri Hassan (Say) at 013-399 3868 or email to or , Alternatively, search "Indiana State University-Malaysia Alumni" on Facebook.


The Subang Jaya Municipal Council is extending its Flat Rate Campaign until Sept 30 for the public to pay their traffic compounds. The flat rate is at RM10 per compound. For details, call 03-8026 3289/ 3153 or visit

Singapore name strong squad for Sultan of Selangor’s Cup

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 06:27 AM PDT

SINGAPORE have named a strong squad for the annual Sultan of Selangor's Cup football competition at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.

The Lions, coached by Avramovic Radojko, have included Aleksander Duric, Qui Li, Mustafic Fajrudin and Shi Jiayi in their 26-member squad for the match against the Red Giants.

The foursome were in the Singapore team that defeated Malaysia 6-3 in the two-leg Pre-World Cup match recently.

It will be interesting to see how Selangor, with the return of Mohd Safee Sali and inclusion of former English Premier League (EPL) players — Jason McAteer and Jesper Blomqvist — will fare against the Lions.

McAteer and Blomqvist, who played for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, are expected to join the Selangor training session on Friday.

Organising chairman Abdul Karim Munisar said Singapore have named a formidable squad for the Sultan of Selangor's Cup competition.

"It will be interesting to see how they match Selangor. They had beaten Selangor 6-0 last year.

"But this year we have Mohd Safee, McAteer and Blomqvist. We hope to see an exciting match,'' said Abdul Karim.

This year's Sultan of Selangor's Cup is the 10th in the series. Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had initiated the event in 2001 to foster better relations between Selangor and Singapore.

Then, it was known as the Regent of Selangor Cup.

The competition was renamed the Sultan of Selangor's Cup in 2003. The tournament has two matches.

The first will be an encounter between Selangor veterans and their Singapore counterparts while the second match will see the Selangor Selection taking on a S-League Selection.

Last year, in the match between the veterans, Selangor scored a 1-0 win with the winning goal coming from former international Shahrin Majid in the last minutes of the game.

The champions of the Sultan of Selangor's Cup will receive RM50,000 while the runners-up will pocket RM10,000.

The organising committee are expecting a crowd of 70,000 for the match.

To add excitement to the environment, there will be fireworks and parachute display.

Popular local artiste Amy Search will entertain the crowd during breaks.

Sultan of Selangor's Cup

Date: Oct 1

Venue: Shah Alam Stadium


5pm: Entertainment by Amy Search

8pm: Selangor veterans vs Singapore veterans

9pm: Selangor selection vs S-League selection

Tickets: RM10

Available at: Quality Hotel, Shah Alam; Quality Hotel City Centre Kuala Lumpur; Concorde Shah Alam; Hard Rock Cafe Kuala Lumpur

Enquiries: 03-55103999 ext 229


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Beautiful artworks by 20 female artists are on display at Sabah Art Gallery

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:24 PM PDT

KOTA KINABALU: It is time for women to break from tradition, and not be confined to their homes and venture into areas mainly dominated by the opposite gender.

"Women should not limit themselves to merely doing housework but take on more challenging tasks instead of sticking to the myth that only men are capable of such feat.

"This, could also include the field of arts," said Deputy Sabah Secretary (Administration) Datuk Maznah Abdul Ghani.

She said a woman's role and responsibility was now a lot more demanding as the public expected artworks from female artists to be as good as their male counterparts.

"Statistics from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry showed the number of women in the labour force had increased to 47% in 2008," Maznah said after launching the month-long Sabah Women's Art Exhibition at the Sabah Art Gallery here recently.

Seventy beautiful artworks from 20 female artists including locally renowned artist Suzie Majikol, Tina Rimmer and Cristianne Goonting, among others, are on show at the exhibition.

"I hope the Sabah Art Gallery and the Sabah Cultural Board will intensify activities involving Sabah's female artists to expand their mind and knowledge," Maznah said.

To have pieces from female artists at the Sabah Art gallery is truly a collector's item, considering a majority of the artworks displayed there were works of male artists," said its curator Jennifer P Linggi.

"This is hardly surprising as most women have to juggle careers with their roles as wives, mothers and homemakers," she said.

"Events such as the Sabah Women's Art Exhibition will help to raise awareness and create a society where women are recognised and respected for all the right reasons."

Transport companies and traders host open house

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:23 PM PDT

MUAR: The Muar Hire-Car Owners Association here teamed up with several express bus companies and traders at the Bentayan bus and taxi terminals to host a joint Hari Raya open house.

The event, held at the parking bays for express buses, began at about 9am and attracted several hundred of guests including traders from surrounding areas and commuters.

Muar Hire-Car Owners Association secretary Sidek Tambi said it was the first time, the association held a joint Hari Raya open house with the express bus companies operating at the terminal.

"We also invited the traders who operated stalls at the terminals to join in and all chipped in with some contributions," he said at the terminal on Saturday.

Sidek said Mayang Sari Express managing director Azman Mohd Arof also contributed fund to expedite the programme while a Bakri Umno division leader allocated some cash for needy people.

Meanwhile, special officer to Mentri Besar for Bentayan Chris Lee said Malaysia was a blessed country where the people from the different races enjoyed and celebrated every festive season.

He said this was truly a 1Malaysia lifestyle and urged taxi owners, bus operators and traders at the Bentayan terminal to maintain their close cooperation.

Lee later represented Bakri division deputy chairman Datuk Mazlan Sabari in giving away some cash aid to four needy people, including single mothers and a caretaker of Surau Kubu Bentayan nearby.

Best student motivated by disability to work harder

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:23 PM PDT

KUALA TERENGGANU: Despite suffering from a physical disability, Nur Fauzana Mohd Nawi insisted it was not a barrier to achieving success in life.

The 24-year-old Islamic studies graduate, who was named among the best students at the Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin convocation ceremony recently, said her bone disability, which prevented her from walking normally gave her motivation to work harder.

"I aim to be come a lecturer or teacher so that I can assist others with disabilities.

"Rather that seeing it as a handicap, I see it as a advantage, whereby I can be more focused in my studies," she said.

She said her mission in life was to assist the disabled in every way she could.

"Graduating with the degree is a passport for me to work as well as help others in need.

"I will dedicate my life to assist the disabled," she said.

Fellow best student Ong Yew Chuan, who graduated with a degree in Computer Science, said he learned to assimilate as well as understand other cultures better, as the only Chinese in his batch.

The 23-year-old student from Penang, said he learned to adapt within a month and made new friends.

"It was hard at first as I had to endure stares from other students.

"I thought those were hateful stares but I discovered that the students here are friendly as well as welcoming," he said adding that, he managed to learned more about Islam as well as improve his command of Bahasa Malaysia.

Asked on his future plans, Ong said he had already enrolled in a part-time Masters Degree course in Kuala Lumpur.

"Gaining knowledge is an endless process and I am always excited to learn new things," he said.

The duo were among six best students and received their presented from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

The ceremony also saw more than 200 students receiving their respective graduation scrolls.


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