Ahad, 2 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Shortages "killing patients" in Libya siege hospital

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 09:15 PM PDT

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - People wounded in fighting in Libya's besieged city of Sirte are dying on the operating table because fuel for the hospital generator has run out, medical workers fleeing the city said on Sunday.

An anti-Gaddafi fighter injured amid heavy shelling on a roundabout in Sirte receives medical treatment at a field hospital, 20 km (12.4 miles) east of Sirte October 2, 2011. (REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori)

The birthplace of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is one of two towns still holding out against the country's new rulers. The fighting has entered its third week and civilians are caught up in a worsening humanitarian crisis.

The interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), declared a two-day truce to allow civilians to escape, but people emerging from the city said they knew nothing of the ceasefire, and that the shooting had not stopped.

"Doctors start operating, then the power goes. They have a few litres of fuel for the generators, then the lights go out when they operate," said a man who gave his name as Al-Sadiq, who said he ran the dialysis unit at Sirte's main hospital.

"I saw a child of 14 die on the operating table because the power went out during the operation," he told Reuters on the western outskirts of the city.

Aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who brought medical supplies into Sirte on Saturday could not reach the hospital because of shooting.

That hospital has now become the focus of concerns about the humanitarian crisis in the city.

"It's a catastrophe. Patients are dying every day for need of oxygen," said Mohammed Shnaq, a biochemist at the hospital who fled early on Sunday during a lull in the shooting.

He said private pharmacies in Sirte had handed over their supplies to the hospital after its own stocks ran out a week ago, but these were now running out too.

The ICRC said that it planned to go back into Sirte and hoped to reach the hospital, security permitting.

"We want to deliver oxygen, which is lacking at the hospital," ICRC spokesman Marcal Izard told Reuters in Geneva.

"But it has to be done carefully, oxygen is very delicate. A stray bullet would be a disaster."


Colonel Hamed Al-Hasi, commander of the anti-Gaddafi Qatar brigade east of Sirte, said the truce had expired on Sunday, but a full assault was still out of the question.

"There are still more than 15,000 persons inside. We cannot sacrifice them," he said.

He said NTC forces would for now instead be targeting the district of Bouhadi, just to the south of Sirte. He said a captured Gaddafi loyalist had told them that Mo'atassem, one of the deposed Libyan leader's sons and his former national security adviser, was in the district.

"We've been concentrating since last night on Bouhadi," he said. "If we catch Mo'atassem, things will calm down."

NATO warplanes were more in evidence than in previous days, with aircraft flying unusually low over the city. In one 10-minute period there was a steady rumble from bombs dropping on an area south of the city, a Reuters reporter said.

Libyans ended Gaddafi's 42-year rule in August when rebel fighters stormed the capital. Gaddafi and several of his sons are still at large, and his supporters hold Sirte and the town of Bani Walid, south of Tripoli.

Gaddafi's supporters are too weak to regain power, but their resistance is frustrating the new rulers' efforts to start building the post-Gaddafi Libya.

While it needs to stamp out the last resistance swiftly, the NTC does not want to use indiscriminate shelling, which could hurt its standing and make it even harder to govern Libya's fractious tribes and regions.


Gaddafi loyalists and some civilians have blamed NATO air strikes and shelling by anti-Gaddafi forces for the deaths of civilians in Sirte.

Both NATO and the NTC deny that and say it is the Gaddafi loyalists who are endangering civilians by using them as human shields.

Khalid Ahmed, who fled the city early on Sunday, said the residential area where he lives in the centre of Sirte had come under heavy artillery fire on Saturday.

"The reason there is shooting in the city centre is that the pro-Gaddafi militia has positioned artillery in the buildings where civilians live. The children are terrified and they are screaming all the time."

He said he had been able to get out by borrowing money to buy black-market fuel. He said the rate in Sirte now was 600 dinars, or about $450, for 20 litres of fuel.

Doctors at a field hospital east of Sirte said four NTC fighters had been killed on Sunday in "friendly fire" incidents -- testament to the often-chaotic conduct of the anti-Gaddafi forces.

The focus on the battle for the last pro-Gaddafi strongholds -- and on tracking down Gaddafi himself -- has left a power vacuum in Tripoli.

With no process in motion for electing a new leadership, power on the ground is wielded by anti-Gaddafi militias who are jockeying with each other for influence in the new Libya. Some analysts warn that this rivalry could turn violent.

One commander in Tripoli said he was setting up an armed group to keep order in the city, even though that function is already carried out by a body led by Abdulhakim Belhadj, a former militant Islamist.

"Who is he? Who appointed him?" said Abdullah Ahmed Naker, the head of the new group, when asked about Belhadj.

(Additional reporting by William Maclean in Tripoli and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Yemeni warplane mistakenly bombs soldiers, officials say

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 08:45 PM PDT

SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) - Local security officials said up to 20 soldiers were killed when Yemen's air force mistakenly bombed a military site in the south of the country on Sunday, but government and military sources denied the reports.

"We are not sure of the number yet but some 18 or 20 soldiers were killed, the plane bombed a small military site in Abyan. They meant to target an al Qaeda hideout," a security official told Reuters by telephone from the flashpoint Abyan province.

A defence ministry source denied "the false news that Yemeni soldiers were killed in an accidental Yemeni plane strike".

Yemen's army is fighting to regain territory lost to suspected al Qaeda operatives during months of political upheaval that have weakened central government control over parts of the country, notably Abyan.

A military source in the area said there was some confusion over what happened in several sites of fighting in Abyan on Sunday.

He said there had been several air strikes and al Qaeda attacks, and said the soldiers' deaths were not caused by a botched strike but a militant ambush on an army site.

The government said its troops had pushed Islamist fighters out of Abyan's capital Zinjibar last month, but clashes continue to flare there.

Local officials said nine soldiers were killed when militants ambushed government forces in the east of the city on Sunday. Another 23 were injured.

Separately, but also in Zinjibar, four more soldiers died in combat with gunmen and 15 militants were killed in air strikes on Sunday, local officials and residents said.

Since popular protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh paralysed impoverished Yemen earlier this year, international powers have feared growing lawlessness might embolden al Qaeda's local wing and imperil shipping routes via the Red Sea.


Saleh's opponents accuse him of exaggerating the threat of al Qaeda and even encouraging militancy to scare Saudi Arabia and the United States into backing him.

Diplomats said Western countries are hoping to step up pressure on Saleh to resign with a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution, as frustration grows over fruitless power transition talks.

"The international community has decided we need to up the pressure now," one senior western diplomat in Sanaa said.

"No decision has been taken yet over what type of resolution we might try ... But we do need to move beyond statements now."

Saleh had been in Saudi Arabia since June recovering from an attempt on his life. His surprise comeback coincided with a burst of bloodshed in the capital when a months-old uneasy stalemate gave way to a military showdown between pro- and anti-Saleh forces.

Violence has been sporadic since Saleh's return, but many Yemenis and analysts fear the country may eventually slide into an even deadlier confrontation, if not civil war.

There were clashes again in Sanaa on Sunday, with residents reporting gunfire near the base of top general Ali Mohsen, who defected from Saleh in March and threw his weight behind protests calling for an end to his 33-year rule.

Residents said men were digging trenches in front of the capital's presidential palace, raising concern they were preparing for more fighting.

"They've renewed the trench digging and they're building dirt mounts around the presidential palace," one resident said. "It started last night and even today they're still digging."

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Erika Solomon and Dhuyazen Mukhashaf; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Sophie Hares)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Flagging Hurricane Ophelia enroute to Newfoundland

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 08:45 PM PDT

MIAMI (Reuters) - Hurricane Ophelia weakened to a Category 1 storm on Sunday as it raced toward Newfoundland off Canada's Atlantic coast.

Ophelia, which had earlier strengthened to become the third major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, was still expected to be a powerful storm when it passed near or over the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland on Sunday night or early Monday.

This NASA handout image from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite was captured on September 21, 2011 and shows Tropical Storm Ophelia (R) as a large and still disorganized area of clouds. (REUTERS/NASA/NOAA GOES Project/Handout)

But its top sustained winds dropped to 90 miles (150 km) per hour as it barrled toward Newfoundland late Sunday afternoon, making it a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

That was down from sustained wind speeds near 133 miles (215 km) per hour, when Ophelia swept east of Bermuda on Saturday.

The hurricane whipped up showers, thunderstorms and surf on the British overseas territory but had no major impact.

A tropical storm watch was in place for the Avalon Peninsula, but the Miami-based hurricane center said a steady weakening of Ophelia was forecast through Monday.

Meanwhile, in the mid-Atlantic, Tropical Storm Philippe also weakened considerably on Sunday as it churned on a west-northwest track about 825 miles (1,330 km) east-southeast of Bermuda.

The hurricane center said Philippe, which posed no risk to land, had seen its top sustained winds drop to 50 miles (85 km) an hour after revving up to near hurricane force overnight.

Forecasters expect Philippe to swing north and then northeast later this week on a track that will keep it well away from the U.S. east coast.

(Writing by Tom Brown; editing by Philip Barbara)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Rooney signs off on '60 Minutes' but 'not retiring'

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:53 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: In his final regular appearance on the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes," Andy Rooney expressed gratitude for a "lucky" life and thanked his fans, but not without adding a touch of the curmudgeonly grumbling that has become a signature element of his TV essays.

"I've done a lot of complaining here," the 92 year-old Rooney said, "but of all the things I've complained about, I can't complain about my life."

Sunday night's installment of "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" capped a 33-year run for the end-of-show segment in which Rooney famously commented on everything from trivial items - often displaying collections of household possessions, wanted and unwanted - to societal issues.

During his valedictory segment, Rooney thanked viewers for their good wishes, while admitting that he's not comfortable with adulation.

"I wasn't always gracious about it," he said. "I don't say this often, but thank you. Although if you do see me in a restaurant, please, just let me eat my dinner."

His "60 Minutes" tenure wasn't without controversy. He was suspended without pay in 1990 over on-air remarks that were considered offensive to homosexuals, but quickly reinstated after the CBS show experienced a sizable dip in audience share.

Four years later he apologized to viewers for comments about musician Kurt Cobain's suicide that were deemed insensitive.

Rooney, who joined the network in 1949 as a writer for "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts," said on Sunday it was his love of the written word that led him to pursue a career in broadcasting.

"I don't think of myself as a television personality," Rooney said. "I'm a writer who reads what he's written."

He began his 70-year journalism career on the U.S. Army's "Stars and Stripes" newspaper, and his "60 Minutes" essays often included references to his military years and tributes to the men with whom he served during World War II.

"This is a moment I have dreaded," Rooney said of Sunday's farewell telecast. "I wish I could do this forever. ... But I'm not retiring. Writers don't retire, and I'll always be a writer."

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The Star Online: Sports

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Hoey holds off McIlroy to clinch Dunhill title

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:53 PM PDT

ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - Northern Irishman Michael Hoey held off compatriot and world number three Rory McIlroy to claim the Dunhill Links Championship title on Sunday.

Three birdies in the last four holes at the home of golf for a closing 68 and a 22-under-par total of 266 earned Hoey a two-shot victory over the U.S. Open champion, with Graeme McDowell completing a Northern Irish one two three.

"I knew I had to hit the three best shots of my career over the last three holes and I did," a delighted Hoey told reporters.

Hoey needed a battling comeback as McIlroy turned on the sort of display that won him the U.S. Open at Congressional in June, producing a spectacular final round 65.

McIlroy began the day five strokes adrift of Hoey but his first nine holes to six-under 30, including an eagle-two with a 90-yard pitch-in on the third, took him past the overnight leader.

Hoey trailed McIlroy right up the to the 15th, due to missed birdie putts of four and three feet on the 11th and 14th but the lesser-known Ulsterman refused to bow.

When Hoey speared in a stunning approach to less than a foot on the 16th he moved back to the top of the leaderboard and a birdie on the last extended his victory margin.

It was by far the 2001 British Amateur champion's best success of three European Tour titles, worth $800,000, as the 32-year-old at last realised his potential after many years in the doldrums, including six visits to qualifying school.

"There have been points when I have asked myself do I want to continue because it's not nice when you're running out of money," Hoey said. "This has now opened doors to tournaments like world golf championships, events I'd only watched on TV."

McIlroy has described Hoey as a player with "supreme talent" and recognised his worth in the final round.

"I didn't quite get the job done but Michael played fantastic golf and showed just what he's capable of," he said.

"It's nice to be second continue my good run, and it gives me a few more world ranking points to get me a little close to Luke (Donald). But at the end of the day I want to win."

McDowell, last year's U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69 to finish four strokes behind Hoey alongside Scot George Murray. It was the first time Northern Ireland has enjoyed a one two three finish on the European Tour.

World number one Donald (70) ensured McIlroy would not close the gap on him too much in Europe's money list or the world rankings by finishing tied ninth.

Na hits Vegas jackpot with first PGA Tour title

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:00 PM PDT

Oct 2 (Reuters) - Kevin Na kept his cool with a red-hot putter to hold off fellow American Nick Watney and claim his first PGA Tour title with an emotional two-shot victory at the Las Vegas Open on Sunday.

South Korea-born Na rolled in a 43-footer to birdie the par-three 17th before parring the last for a six-under-par 65 and a 23-under total of 261 at the TPC Summerlin.

The 28-year-old, who had been winless in his previous 210 PGA Tour starts, threw both arms skywards in celebration before removing his cap and embracing his caddie.

"Oh wow," a tearful Na said greenside after being told he had finally triumphed in his 211th career start. "I went through a lot. I'd have nightmares finishing second.

"I used to tell my mother: 'As hard as I work, when I am going to get my first win?' People said they believed in me more than I think I believe in myself, especially Kenny my caddie.

"Every time he was there for me and he believed in me."

Tied for the lead overnight with Watney, Na was briefly caught at the top by his playing partner with four holes to play before he tightened his grip on the title with birdies at 15, 16, and 17.

World number 11 Watney, bidding to become the PGA Tour's first three-times champion this year, had to settle for second place after closing with a four-birdie 67.

Americans Tommy Gainey and Paul Goydos both signed off with 68s to share third place at 18 under.


For most of Sunday's final round, however, the tournament came down to an effective head-to-head between Na and Watney, the two overnight leaders. Na made a red-hot start, birdies at the first and second holes putting him two strokes clear at 19 under.

Though Las Vegas resident Watney cut that deficit to one with a long-range birdie putt at the third, Na restored his two-shot cushion by sinking a 20-footer from just off the green at the par-four fourth.

Na made his first mistake of the day with a bogey at the sixth, after missing the fairway to the left off the tee, and dropped back into a tie for the lead with American Tim Herron at 19 under.

Herron, a four-times winner on the PGA Tour whose most recent victory came at the 2006 Colonial Invitational, had birdied four of the first seven holes before losing momentum over the closing stretch on his way to a 69 and joint fifth. Na, however, immediately bounced back with a birdie at the seventh before picking up another shot at the par-five ninth after reaching the green in two and two-putting.

Two ahead at the turn, Na was briefly caught by Watney when he bogeyed the par-three 14th after failing to get up and down from a buried lie in a greenside bunker.

The long-hitting Watney had rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-five 13th to get to 20 under overall.

Once again, though, Na regained control, sinking a three-footer to birdie the driveable par-four 15th before following up with a two-putt birdie at the par-five 16th to lead Watney by one.

He never relinquished his grip as he finished birdie-par to triumph by two strokes.

Ireland down Italy to maintain unbeaten run and qualify as group champs

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 04:43 PM PDT

IRELAND weathered a stiff test in their decisive clash with Italy yesterday before cutting loose in the second half for an eventually dominant 36–6 victory that sent them into the World Cup quarter–finals as group winners for the first time.       

The winner–takes–all Group C match was a desperately tight forward battle in the first half as Ireland edged a 9–6 lead but they took command after the break as their high–class backline eventually carved try–scoring openings.       

Captain Brian O'Driscoll finished off the first chance after 48 minutes and winger Keith Earls added a second four minutes later before capping off a stirring second half display with his second try at the death.

Ireland won all four group games for the first time, coming after they lost all four of their warm–up Tests, setting up a Wellington quarter–final against Wales.       

With the prize of a semi–final against a stuttering England or underperforming France dangling tantalisingly, Ireland, who have never before gone beyond the last eight, have a wonderful chance to go all the way to the final.       

"Delighted with the win," said O'Driscoll, whose on–pitch interview was almost drowned out by the roaring Irish fans.       

"We knew we needed it and I'm glad we were able to deliver in that second half, ably helped by the best crowd we've played in front of so far.

"We owe them a huge debut of gratitude. We knew we were going to have to be patient. Against any team, you have to grind them down and go through the phases. We were good and patient and took our scores clinically."       

Italy's dreams of a first appearance in the quarters fell at the final hurdle for the third successive tournament as yesterday's setback followed an agonising 18–16 loss to Scotland in 2007 and defeat by Wales in 2003.

It was a disappointing exit for coach Nick Mallett, who, after four years in charge, is being replaced by Frenchman Jacques Brunel after the tournament.       

"I don't have any words in this moment," said an emotional Italian skipper Sergio Parisse.       

"It's difficult to explain how I feel. I want to thank my team–mates for all the work we have been doing but today we played really badly.       "Compliments to Ireland because they showed really good rugby."

There was a wonderful atmosphere at the indoor Otago Stadium, which was a virtual sea of green for the final game of the World Cup's group stage.

The huge prize at stake helped make for a tight confrontation though and, with little between the sides and every point vital, the mounting tension grew palpable.

Ireland edged the first 40 minutes as Ronan O'Gara landed three of his four penalty attempts to Mirco Bergamasco's two from three, but the nearest either side came to a try was when Irish wing Tommy Bowe broke through to touch down under the posts but was called back for a forward pass.

Italy lost key prop Martin Castrogiovanni after half an hour and brought on Riccardo Bocchino at flyhalf for the second period but they were unable to gain a foothold and within 12 minutes of the restart, the match was effectively over.       

O'Gara stretched the lead to 12-6 with his fourth penalty before Bowe carved through the Italian defence with a determined run and switched the ball nicely inside for the evergreen O'Driscoll to score his 45th try in his 116th appearance for his country.

Four minutes later, it was Gordon D'Arcy's run that scattered the Italian defence and winger Earls marked his 24th birthday with the second try.

O'Gara converted both scores and Earls completed Ireland's 16th successive victory over Italy with his second try in the final minute. – Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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New Zealand commodity prices fall further

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:48 PM PDT

WELLINGTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) Prices for New Zealand's main commodity exports fell for a fourth successive month in September, but a softer currency improved local returns for the first time in sixth months, a survey showed on Monday.

The ANZ Bank's commodity price index dropped 1.3 percent on the previous month, following a 1.4 percent fall in August. Overall, prices have fallen 4 percent since peaking in May, but remain 17 percent higher than a year ago.

Translated into New Zealand dollar earnings, the commodity index rose 0.4 percent, after a slight fall the month before. It was the first rise since March, leaving NZ dollar returns 5.1 percent higher than a year ago.

The kiwi traded wildly during the month, tumbling from an open of more than $0.8500, before being battered by global turbulence and ratings downgrades. It finished the month down 11 percent.

The index includes commodities accounting for around 60 percent of the agricultural economy's NZ$46 billion ($35 billion) annual export earnings.

Ten commodity groups fell in price, including fruit, dairy produce, aluminium and logs. Three groups rose, and four were steady.

New Zealand's terms of trade reached a 37 year high in the second quarter on surging export prices, but data last week showed the first monthly deficit in eight months in August and a narrowing annual trade surplus. ($1=NZ$1.31)

Japan institutionals' interest in gold rising

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:46 PM PDT

TOKYO, Oct 3 (Reuters) Japanese institutional investors are showing increased interest in gold, as volatile financial markets since the Lehman crisis have spurred them to rethink their asset allocation, the World Gold Council's top Japan official said.

Recent sharp swings in the gold price , which surged to a record high above $1,900 an ounce in early September but then fell nearly $400 over the next three weeks, should not undermine the value of the metal in an investment portfolio, Takahiro Morita told Reuters in an interview.

"The purpose of investing in gold is for its effectiveness in diversification and against various risks, and so over the long span it is very effective to invest regardless of the price level," said Morita, who became director of the World Gold Council's Japan office on Oct. 1.

"The nature specific to gold that it moves differently from other asset types and does not carry credit risk won't necessarily change in the future. There are no reasons to believe that these features would be lost in the future."

A downgrade in the U.S. sovereign debt rating amid a deteriorating outlook for the world's largest economy, as well as deepening concerns that the spreading European debt crisis could drag on the global economy, triggered the latest rush to buy gold.

Intensifying fears about Europe's debt problems and financial stability prompted investors to sell assets across the board, however, weighing down gold prices in late September.

But the environment supporting the gold market looks set to stay in place for now, Morita said, with the dollar playing less of a role as a core global currency, some sovereign assets perceived as less safe, and some investors reassessing reserve management.

"The market volatility since the Lehman crisis has made many institutionals rethink their asset allocation, and their interest in gold is rising," he said.

In contrast to Japanese retail investors, who have actively sold gold when it rallies and bought the metal when it falls, institutionals have been slow to take on commodities in general.

The World Gold Council's Tokyo office issued its first report for Japanese institutional investors in midSeptember, including data on how gold has performed in yen terms against other asset classes and the metal's volatility compared with other asset types over the past decade.

Morita joined the World Gold Council's Tokyo office in September 2010 and previously served as a managing director and corporate ratings department head at ratings agency Moody's Investors Service in Tokyo.

Japanese companies turn optimistic

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:44 PM PDT

TOKYO, Oct 3 (Reuters) Japanese business sentiment improved in the third quarter as manufacturing supply chains recovered and the economy avoided disruptive power outages following a large earthquake in March, but a rising yen and Europe's debt crisis threaten the outlook.


The headline index for big manufacturers' sentiment improved to plus 2 in September from minus 9 in June, the Bank of Japan tankan survey showed on Monday. The median estimate was for plus 2.

The index for December 2011 was seen at plus 4, showing firms expect conditions to improve further. Economists' median estimate was for plus 3.

Big firms plan to raise capital spending, a key driver of the economy, by 3.0 percent in the fiscal year to March 2012, against the median forecast for a 4.2 percent increase.

Big manufacturers expect the dollar to average 81.15 yen in the fiscal year to March 2012, which is the strongest expected yen level since comparable data became available in 1996.

The index for big automakers' sentiment jumped 65 points to plus 13 in September from the previous survey while the small automakers' index rose 68 points to plus 20, both marking the biggest increase since comparable data became available in 1992.



"The tankan results were good, in line with expectations, and the most positive sign is that large manufacturers said they expected conditions to improve further.

"The results show that the domestic economy is holding up even with the strong yen, and the biggest concerns are external, not internal, such as the impact of Europe's debt problems on global growth."


"The headline figures indicate a moderate recovery at manufacturers. But if you look carefully, you can see the heavy burden of a higher yen, and their profits are under pressure.

"Additional easing measures will be taken if the dollar falls below, say, 75 yen. Today's data reinforces views that the government and the Bank of Japan will take coordinated steps to tackle any excessive appreciation of the yen."


"The tankan confirmed companies are cautious about the outlook as evidenced by a sharp downward revision in capital spending plans by nonmanufacturers. But it also shows the economy's recovery is intact, as seen in improvements in employment and capacity utilisation readings.

"Given big manufacturers are optimistic about three months ahead, the tankan is unlikely to prompt the BOJ to take additional easing steps this week.

"The BOJ is likely to forecast in its semiannual report (at the end of this month) that consumer price growth will stay below 1 percent for the next two to three years, which is in line with the market consensus. This will affirm expectations for easy policy for the years to come."

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The Star Online: Nation

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BASE jumpers thrill KL folks

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 06:19 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of 30 BASE jumpers thrilled cityfolk, who had gathered at the foot of Menara Kuala Lumpur, with a canopy trail formation at the closing of the KL Tower International Jump Malaysia 2011 here Sunday.

The Building, Antenna, Span and Earth (BASE) jumpers comprising participants from Malaysia, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Britain, Japan and the United States jumped off from a height of 310m, drawing "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd below.

The jump, which coincided with Menara Kuala Lumpur's 15th anniversary celebration, was witnessed by Deputy Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk M. Saravanan.

Menara Kuala Lumpur chief executive officer Zuraidah Mohamed Said said the tower was the only one in the world which allowed jumpers from around the world to indulge in the sport and this international jump, which first took place in 1999, would be staged again Sept 25 to 30 next year. - Bernama

MCA calls for a new deal based on fairness (Update)

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:32 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A new deal based on fairness and bravery needs to be drawn up to give the people confidence and hope that their future is in Malaysia, said MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

"The new deal must embrace everyone and erase policies and laws which are unjustified and considered stumbling blocks," he said.

"The time to act is now. The new deal should give every Malaysian, their children and grandchildren confidence and hope that their future is in Malaysia," he said at the opening of the MCA's 58th annual general assembly (AGM) at Wisma MCA here .

Urging Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to take the giant leap forward and offer all Malaysians a new deal for the future, Dr Chua said Barisan Nasional should not allow "the baggage of the past to be a millstone around the necks of our children and grandchildren".

"Malaysians need a new deal that is fair, democratic, transparent and inclusive of all Malaysians to address today's concerns of the young and the future generation.

"It should encompass political, social, economic and educational issues and epitomize the very core expectations and aspirations of the people at large."

In a highly-charged speech Dr Chua said the coalition must rise to the occasion, rise above narrow self-interest and do away with "ideological dogmatism and laws, policies, ideologies and beliefs that have outlived its relevance in today's political landscape."

He noted that the aspirations of the younger generation might not be the same like that of the older generation, and that the government and leaders must tailor their policies and programmes to the young.

"They must have faith that their aspirations can be met, and that we (Barisan) will facilitate those aspirations and not be a hindrance to them," Dr Chua said.

The MCA president said there was a need for Barisan to sit down and work out the New Deal, stressing that such efforts must not be seen as an attempt to completely rewrite the so-called Merdeka social contract.

"I know there will be groups who will attack me for even suggesting it. But let us be bold and brave enough to rework it to make it more suitable for the times and to meet the aspirations of all Malaysians.

"Let us rise above narrow self-interests. The time to act is now."

Dr Chua said policies formulated immediately after 1969 must change with the times, pointing out that the world had changed.

"The new leadership of the MCA wants the New Deal to also embrace a government that is constructive and which can unite all races. We must always pursue the middle path, reaching out to a younger generation who may feel alienated.

"We want a nation that is fair, democratic, transparent and inclusive of all Malaysians."

Dr Chua said the government should listen more to concerned Malaysians who are now more vocal, active and politically conscious than before.

"As leaders, we must always be ready to listen. Politicians should never pretend to know everything," he stressed.

He said a caring government would take care of everyone's needs and expectations, from education and employment to security and law and order, as well as the impact of inflation.

Dr Chua, who called for more channels for peaceful dissent, also proposed that designated places and designated routes be allowed for protest and that the applications for police permits must be transparent.

On political transformation, Dr Chua said politicians should go beyond the politics of cohesion, threat, race and religion.

He regretted that there were one or two Barisan leaders who were seen as aloof, arrogant and abusive, and their attitude had not gone down well with the rakyat.

Dr Chua, who likened their behaviour to that of "big brothers" or bullies, said their behaviour would only heighten the people's anger and negative perceptions of the Barisan and the government.

The MCA chief also called on Najib to ensure that all frontline civil servants to emulate the police by learning at least two additional languages besides Bahasa Malaysia.

On education, Dr Chua called for a timetable should also be set for the authorities to make English a compulsory pass subject in the SPM examination.

He also called for mother tongue languages to be encouraged at all national schools and should eventually be made compulsory.

"If such initiatives are planned properly with a staggered timeline, they are achievable."

Touching on the economy, Dr Chua said the award of projects should not be based on a "know-who" basis, and the expanding economic cake should be shared fairly by all Malaysians under the 1Malaysia concept.

He also urged Malaysians not to see each other as competitors but instead team up to compete with the world outside.

On the rising cost of living and many people not being able to make ends meet, Dr Chua proposed the government help them via special one-off monetary relief like cash handouts to the poor, senior citizens, pensioners, and assistance like school books, uniforms and transportation for school-going children.

The government, he added, should also consider some form of monthly allowance for the poor.

Dr Chua also cautioned the people of the Pakatan's practice - talk but don't walk the talk apart from being "consistently inconsistent".

He reminded the people that the opposition's populist policies might generate the "feel good" factor; but they would neither address their needs nor generate high income or better living standards.

MCA AGM: Full text of Dr Chua Soi Lek's speech

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:30 AM PDT

Full text of Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek's speech at the MCA 58th annual general assembly on Sunday.

1. A big welcome to all leaders of Barisan Nasional component parties, and my sincere thanks to the honorable Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for being with us today to officiate the AGM.

2. This is probably the last AGM before the next general election which can be called anytime from now.

3. The election date is on everyone's mind. We should all be prepared for the general election.

4. Sir, we are glad to report that after fresh party polls last year, the MCA has emerged as a more united and stable party.

5. However factions remain at some divisional levels. My fellow comrades, we have to put our differences aside and confront our enemies as One Team.

6. We should all be big-hearted and compassionate. The best gift to your enemy is forgiveness, and to your opponent, tolerance. If we practise these values, the MCA will be stronger with each passing day.

7. If we cannot get support from within our own ranks, we cannot expect to get support from outside the party. We have to discard factional politics and move ahead.

8. Our political opponents are not our own comrades but Pakatan Rakyat. We must stay focused on our objectives.

9. Sir, as we enter the final phase, we should not send the wrong signals suggesting that we take different stands.

10. We must speak with one voice. Let us not forget the proud history of our founding fathers' struggles and sacrifices that have brought this nation this far.

11. BN has laid the foundation where the country's major races has created a powerful consensus for peace, prosperity and stability.


12. Sir, you have undertaken the Government Transformation Programme and the Economic Transformation Programme to ensure that we become a high-income nation by 2020.

13. I applaud you for the changes you announced in conjunction with Malaysia Day to do away with the ISA and Emergency Laws and to liberalise the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

14. You have done what the public wants but what previous Prime Ministers were not willing to do. You have shown courage and leadership.

15. It takes political will and MCA supports you 100 per cent on this. Laws, policies, ideologies and beliefs that have outlived their relevance in today's political landscape must be changed.

16. If we do not do away with them or adapt them to the times, they will act as stumbling blocks that will impede the progress of the country and its people.

17. Mr Prime Minister, I urge you to take one giant step forward and offer all Malaysians a New Deal for the future - A New Deal that epitomises the very core expectations and aspirations of the people at large.

18. Policies formulated immediately after 1969 must change with the times. That is because the world has changed. Back then, China was still a closed economy, a closed country in fact.

19. The world has changed. Malaysia cannot sit still when every country around us is moving ahead with more progressive policies that do away with ideological dogmatism.

20. Sir, the new leadership of the MCA wants the NEW DEAL to also embrace a government that is constructive and which can unite all races. We must always pursue the middle path, reaching out to a younger generation who may feel alienated.

21. We want a nation that is fair, democratic, transparent and inclusive of all Malaysians. We want a middle Malaysia, where the voices of the rakyat are heard.

22. We are for a caring Government that takes care of everyone's needs and expectations, from education and employment to security and law & order, as well as the impact of inflation.

23. Mr Prime Minister, 54 years ago the then leaders of our major parties, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun Sambanthan of MIC, sat down to work out a new agreement that promised a place for people of all ethnic groups in an independent Malaya.

24. Six years later, Malaya was expanded to become Malaysia. That was the New Deal of that time. Today, Malaysians want a new New Deal. Malaysia needs a New Deal for the future.

25. A New Deal that gives every Malaysian, their children and grandchildren confidence and hope that their future is in Malaysia. Today may not be the time for us to go into specifics of what the new deal should be, but let us agree to sit down and work out this new deal.

26. But at the outset, let me say this new deal does not have to be seen as an attempt to completely rewrite the so-called Merdeka social contract.

27. I know there will be groups who will attack me for even suggesting it. But let us be bold and brave enough to rework it to make it more suitable for the times and to meet the aspirations of all Malaysians.

28. The aspirations of the younger generation may not be the same as ours. As the government and leaders of the country, we must tailor our policies and programmes to the young.

29.They must have faith that their aspirations can be met, and that we will facilitate those aspirations and not be a hindrance to them. Let us not allow the baggage of the past to be a millstone around the necks of our children and grandchildren.

30. For what does a country have except for the energy, intellect, confidence and skills of our future generations. That is why I say we must offer them a New Deal for the future.

31. And we, the current leadership of BN must do it. As a founding member of the Alliance that got us Merdeka, the MCA will support you and work with you on a New Deal for all.

32. Let us rise to the occasion, let us rise above narrow self-interests. The time to act is NOW.


33. The MCA believes that there should be more channels for peaceful dissent.

34. The government should listen more to concerned Malaysians who are now more vocal, active and politically conscious than before.

35. As leaders, we must always be ready to listen. Politicians should never pretend to know everything.

36. The MCA proposes that designated places and designated routes be allowed for protest. Applications for police permits must be transparent.

37. The police should be deployed only for controlling traffic. The organisers should ensure that the demonstration is peaceful with no threat to human life and property.

38. Political transformation should go beyond the politics of cohesion, the politics of threat and the politics of race. We should rise above all these and take political recourse in a different dimension. We should take politics away from the heat of race and religion.


39. Sir, you have liberalised media controls by not requiring newspaper companies to renew their permit annually.

40. The MCA feels the press should have the liberty to exercise self-control. Already there are laws such as the Sedition Act and Official Secrets Act to check on any deviation or wrong committed by the media outlets.

41. Ultimately we should work towards abolishing the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and set a time frame for that. The government has to be bold and confident to take such steps.

42. There is now no level playing field between traditional and new (online) media. The print media is subjected to various laws, but new media seems to have a free hand. There should be no such discrimination.


43. The MCA is optimistic that the ETP under your leadership will propel our country to become a high income nation by 2020.

44. The award of projects should not be based on a "know-who" basis.

45. There should be no more cronyism or nepotism. It breeds corruption and promotes unfair business practices.

46. The rakyat want a more just society and a fairer business environment that emphasises meritocracy, inclusiveness and transparency.

47. Doing business should also be simpler, minus all the red tape.

48. The government should also continue with initiatives to liberalise more economic sectors. This is to enhance competitiveness and promote productivity, spurring us to be more innovative.

49. We support the government's policy of open tender and reducing red tape to create a competitive and business-friendly environment.

50. Sir, under your leadership, Malaysia has become more competitive in moving from the 26th position to the 21st spot in a recent survey.

51. The MCA subscribes to affirmative action based on needs and merits, and expects the Government to continue to transform the nation to achieve a high-income status.

52. If any particular group is poor, it must continue to receive help.

53. This is to make sure that all Malaysians benefit, as the government is committed to ensuring that all Malaysians do well.

54. BN should take the lead in pursuing a Middle Malaysia and give the rakyat a bigger voice.

55. This must bring hope and inspiration to the people. It must offer pragmatic and achievable policies, not mere slogans, like Pakatan Rakat.

56. Barisan must not be distracted by the divisive and populist policies adopted by Pakatan such as dishing out RM100 for the elderly, which may seem useful but more needs to be done.

57. The government's duty is to reassure all Malaysians that they have a rightful place in the country. All Malaysians will benefit as the country develops to become a high-income nation by the year 2020. The expanding economic cake should be shared fairly and equitably by all Malaysians.

58. Bumiputras should not be jealous of the success of non-bumis, and non-bumis should also not be jealous of the progress of bumiputras. We are 1Malaysia.

59. If we want to attract Foreign Direct Investment and stay competitive, the real competitors are not fellow Malaysians but the outside world.

60. We need to see the emergence of successful Malaysians. We need to see that all Malaysians do well.

61. Of course Pakatan, being the divisive factor of the nation, will spin the idea that they can take care of the needs of all Malaysians. They always talk but don't walk the talk, being consistently inconsistent.

62. Populist policies merely generate a "feel good" factor but don't really address people's needs. Populist policies alone don't guarantee high income or better living standards

63. The NEW DEAL - the Government transformation programme, the economic transformation programme, and the political transformation programme - under your leadership, is the real change that the rakyat expect.

64. Pakatan Rakyat has not undertaken any transformation other than spinning half-truths, distorting facts and packaging themselves to look good.

65. We must convince the rakyat that we are nation-builders, and Pakatan Rakyat is just hungry for power.


66. The MCA hails the setting up of the National Wage Consultative Council to address the concerns of the workforce. It is an initiative of a caring government to raise the living standards of the people.

67. To facilitate its work, the Council should have representation from the private sector, trade unions and professional bodies.

68. It is wrong to say that a minimum wage policy will render our country less competitive. Instead, it would help Malaysia produce a better quality workforce with improved skills and knowledge.

69. We should become less dependent on foreign labour.

70. A minimum wage policy can be productivity-driven. That would make our workforce more marketable than that of neighbouring countries.


71. With rising food and commodity prices, all Malaysians are confronted by the rising cost of living.

72. Although the government heavily subsidises health care, education, housing and fuel, the rakyat seldom realise it.

73. The middle and lower income groups now find it difficult to make ends meet.

74. The government should further mitigate the hardships of the people through special one-off monetary relief like cash handouts to the poor, senior citizens, pensioners including assistance for school books, uniforms and transportation for school-going children.

75. The government should also consider some form of monthly allowance for the poor. This would greatly help them overcome hardships in their household expenses.


76. Sir, the government of the day is expected to engage fully with the rakyat.

77. The various ministries must therefore be made to engage with the rakyat online.

78. We know that you adopt a more personal touch by using Twitter, Facebook and your blog to engage with the people.

79. Sadly, it has been perceived that one or two BN leaders are aloof, arrogant and abusive.

80. Some are also known to be loose cannons. They get into the headlines for the wrong reasons.

81. For the sake of stability in BN, the MCA has not responded in a way it perhaps should. The attitude of this small group of BN leaders has not gone down well with the rakyat.

82. They project themselves as a "big brother" or rather bullies.

83. Sir, they seem to have been afflicted with the "four diseases" you have diagnosed - delusion, amnesia, inertia and arrogance.

84. If allowed to fester, it will heighten the people's anger and negative perceptions of the BN and the government.


85. Sir, we are heartened that the police have been encouraged to learn at least two additional languages besides Bahasa Malaysia.

86. It is good to foster greater interaction, unity and progress through social diversity.

87. However this should not apply to the police alone. Under the NEW DEAL, all front-liners in the civil service should be multi-lingual.

88. Language is an important communication tool. The MCA would like to express its support for the usage of mother tongue languages in the teaching of Maths and Science in all primary schools.

89. Likewise the MCA supports the teaching of Maths and Science in English or Bahasa Malaysia in secondary schools. Parents should have the right to decide on the language used for their children's education.

90. A timetable should also be set for the authorities to make English a compulsory pass subject in the SPM examination.

91. Mother tongue languages should also be encouraged and eventually made compulsory in all national schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan).

92. If such initiatives are planned properly with a staggered timeline, they are achievable.

93. Remove classes should be maintained and there should not be any arbitrary decision taken by headmasters to exempt certain students.

94. I would also like to record my sincere thanks to the Prime Minister on his decision to offer scholarships to all students with 8A+ in their SPM examination, regardless of their ethnicity.

95. Of the 4,000 recipients who received JPA scholarships this year to study abroad and locally, 1,660 students are Chinese.

96. Also, 88.6 per cent of Chinese students had successfully enrolled in local public universities.

97. Mr Prime Minister, if the award of scholarships in public universities and entry into IPTA were based on merit, we are confident that the brain drain will be greatly reduced.

98. The MCA hopes that such a move will be made to curtail the outflow of talented people to other countries.

99. I would also like to record our appreciation to 1Malaysia Development Bhd for awarding scholarships to the top 50 Unified Examination Certificate holders pursuing higher education.

100. The recipients were awarded scholarships valued at RM45,000 each, without any bond attached.

101. Our party firmly believes that the socially and economically disadvantaged groups should be given help irrespective of race or creed.

102. Ladies and gentlemen, this year also marks the first year when UEC students have been admitted to teacher-training colleges.

103. My fellow comrades, it's time for the government to admit UEC graduates into public universities. The government should seriously give due consideration to this matter.

104. Because of the importance of mother-tongue education, some quarters would judge the government on how it manages the role of the Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan.

105. Sir, under the new deal, the community expects more Chinese schools to be built and more allocations from the government, but not on a piecemeal or ad hoc basis.

106. The community views the performance of the government based on how it treats Chinese primary and independent schools.

107. A little more generosity would dispel any notion that the government has neglected mother-tongue education.

108. More allocation and new Chinese schools will deny the Opposition the opportunity to exploit the situation by claiming that Chinese schools have been marginalised.

109. The MCA will continue to work to provide affordable and quality education through KTAR and UTAR for all Malaysians. Together they have produced 185,000 graduates, and today both have a student population of 42,000 students.

110. The annual intake of UTAR and KTAR is about 20,000 students, and this constitutes about 20% of the 100,000 Malaysian Chinese students entering into tertiary institutes yearly. These two institutes have and will continue to assist significantly in the training of professionals and skilled manpower for the nation.

111. To further upgrade KTAR, we have engaged the MOHE to elevate KTAR to University College status.

112. To further liberalize the learning environment of our universities, MCA believes that Sections 15 and 6 of the Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU) should be amended to allow students and lecturers to be engaged in political activities. This is to respect their rights as voters.

113. The MCA will play a bigger role in training skilled workers as part of our effort to support the ETP. The MCA has signed an MOU with 6 Taiwan Universities, and we are glad the MOE Taiwan will sponsor 300 Malaysian students every year.

114. The first batch of 160 students left for Taiwan in September.

115. Sir, the MCA has just launched a RM30 million 1MCA education loan scheme for poor students, irrespective of race. The first 5 years of the loan is interest-free. This loan fund will benefit at least 250 students annually.

116. As a political party, we have invested a lot of resources in education. We have definitely done more than the DAP, which continues to pay lip service to people's needs.


117. We support the Prime Minister's view that only winnable candidates should be selected to contest in the coming general election.

118. This is to ensure that aspiring leaders come only from those who are committed, hard-working and have a good track record.

119. The winnable candidates should not be the president's candidates or the division chairman's candidates, but ideally the rakyat's candidates.

120. The MCA will have a line-up comprising young, middle-aged and mature candidates, with priority given to the younger generation.

121. We are open to any new arrangement of seat allocation within BN. The MCA's principle is that as long as the component party can win, we will support it.

122. We trust your leadership and the political wisdom of component party leaders to ensure a win-win situation for BN.


123. In this AGM, delegates will also pass a resolution that the party will not take up any appointed government posts if the MCA does not fare better than in the 2008 general election.

124. Such a move is to respect the wishes of the voters that we cannot continue to be the voice of the government if we do not get the support of the people.

125. This decision should not be construed as a threat, but rather as respecting the wishes of voters.

126. If there is a threat at all, it is to the party and its members and definitely not the voters.

127. Hopefully this decision will create greater awareness of the need for unity among MCA members, that the survival and destiny of the party are in their hands.

128.However, BN should be forewarned that if the coalition government does not perform to the expectations of the Chinese, the community will not support the MCA, hence denying Chinese representation in the government.

129. The Federal government cannot be legitimate unless there is multiracial representation. The government should have the support of all Malaysians, not just the support of one or two communities.

130. The Alliance was formed on the principle of power-sharing which has continued today through BN. Power-sharing means respecting the voices of each other.

131. No community should be perceived to be superior to another. If that happens, something is not right with the principle of power-sharing that our forefathers had fought so hard to build.

132. Malaysia is blessed with a multiracial society. And in a diverse nation, no race will get all that it wants and no race will be denied everything it asks for. All we seek is shared success.

133. If the DAP's victory can ensure that the problems confronting the Chinese can be resolved, the MCA will not be jealous of the DAP's success.

134. Due to their non-stop attacks to discredit the MCA, the DAP has projected itself as a political superman that can solve all problems confronting the Chinese Community.

135. However its performance in PR states proves that it is No Superman.

136. We have our past baggage, but the present generation of MCA leaders should be given a chance to prove that they are worthy of support.


137. After the March 2008 election, the people were very optimistic that there would finally be a two-party system. Unfortunately it only gave rise to intense politicking, which has been divisive.

138. Pakatan Rakyat has never stopped exploiting issues to gain political mileage, from the death of Teoh Beng Hock to Bersih, and even the proposed parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms.

139. All they want is to create the idea that Barisan Nasional cannot do anything right.

140. The rakyat will not be hoodwinked by Pakatan because of BN's track record of nation-building.

141. The Government Transformation Programme and the Economic Transformation Programme under your leadership has given rise to hope that we will become a high-income nation by 2020.

142. Pakatan states have not initiated any change, let alone a transformation. They are good at publicising and branding themselves, and claiming credit for the little that has been done.

143. If they have done well in attracting Foreign Direct Investment, it is because of the federal government that has provided the economic stability, incentives and infrastructure to enable investors to make a decision.

144. It is not the sole effort of any particular state.

145. The DAP will continue to package itself as a multiracial party, hiding its true colours as a mono-ethnic party. They will place some token Malay candidates in Perak and Selangor with the hope that if they form the government, then the Malay candidates can be the Mentri Besar.

146. The DAP in its campaign says it must punish the BN led by Umno. To do that, it is pitting Chinese against Chinese, putting up candidates to contest against Gerakan and MCA candidates.

147. This clearly runs contrary to its claim of being a multiracial party.

148. To test its claim of multiracialism, it should contest in Malay areas and prove its worth and acceptance by all communities.

149. By pitting Chinese against Chinese, the DAP has merely created a political system where non-Chinese form the government and Chinese end up as the opposition.

150. This will ultimately lead to a two-race system, not a two-party system.

151. In Sarawak, they have succeeded in reducing the Chinese representation during the state elections. But they did not succeed in removing the Chief Minister there.

152. The reality is that out of 222 parliamentary seats, only about 46 are Chinese-majority. If the Chinese wish to vent their anger against the government by voting against BN, the most they can secure is 46 seats.

153. Any Chinese-based party needs to work with a Malay-based party to form the government. This brings us to a pertinent question: who is Pakatan Rakyat's Prime Minister-in-waiting?

154. Until today, I have been asking that question but no answers have been forthcoming.

155. Who is Pakatan's Prime Minister-to-be? The rakyat have a right to know: is he Anwar Ibrahim, Hadi Awang, Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang or Lim Guan Eng?

156. For all our imperfections, people know who our Prime Minister is: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

157. Where are the accountability and transparency, and where is the freedom of information that Pakatan has been shouting about?


158. The political situation today has become more challenging. There is only one option, and that is to work hard.

159. It is the duty of every party member to ensure that every MCA and BN candidate wins in the coming general election.

160. We have to stay united, be focused, work hard, be people-friendly and strengthen the party machinery so that Pakatan's march to Putrajaya will remain only a dream.

161. The MCA also reaffirms its commitment to the Chinese community that the new MCA leadership is sensitive and responsive to its needs.

162. We will continue to have a role to play within the government and be its voice in government.

163. Sir, we are with you all the way in facing the coming general election.

164. We trust in your political wisdom and leadership to lift Malaysia to the next level of progress with renewed vigour.

165. Mr Prime Minister, we will make sure that together we will defend Putrajaya with resounding success.

166. We in the MCA are committed to this task more than ever.

Thank you.

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Hard-working heartthrob

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 02:07 AM PDT

South Korean star Oh Ji Ho was not taken seriously when he started acting because of all the attention on his looks.

SOUTH Korean actor Oh Ji Ho is thoroughly amused by how popular South Korean pop music, otherwise known as K-pop, is outside his home country.

During the filming of his latest drama series Strangers 6, he found that his Chinese and Japanese co-stars had a tendency to belt out K-pop hits at random.

One co-star in particular, Hong Kong actor Bowie Lam, was especially prone to singing the catchy tune Nobody by girl group Wonder Girls frequently.

"Bowie really likes that song – he hums and sings it all the time on the set," says Oh, 35, with a chuckle while doing the famous hand gestures that go with the song during a recent interview at Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore.

He was in the island republic for a three-night visit to film footage for his first autobiographical documentary and was invited by Resorts World Sentosa to use the integrated resort as a backdrop.

The one-hour documentary, which has yet to be named, will showcase what he is like as a person outside of his many acting personas. It will be released in Japan and South Korea early next year.

Though the bachelor declined to provide more details about his documentary, he was eager to talk about Strangers 6, which is touted as the first television series to be co-produced by South Korea, China and Japan.

The action drama, which is set to be aired early next year, is about six secret agents from the police forces of the three countries who must work together to protect the economic future of East Asia.

The high-profile project, whose budget is reportedly around 1bil yen (RM41.4mil), also features Korean actress Kim Hyo Jin, Japanese stars Toshiaki Karasawa and Masaya Kikawada, as well as China's Liu Xuan.

Oh says the series, which is still being filmed, is a positive step forward for future offerings by Asian production houses.

"If we all work together this way more often, there is hope that Asian dramas can become as internationally popular and acclaimed as big American series," he adds.

On his experience collaborating with so many international co-stars, he says diplomatically: "Though we may have language barriers or slight cultural differences, working on any drama is ultimately the same. Everyone is very professional and it has been great to be a part of this show."

Oh has appeared in more than 20 television dramas and films since he debuted in 1998. He is best known for his roles in popular television series such as Couple Or Trouble (2006), where he played a handsome handyman.

His film credits include action comedy My Wife Is A Gangster 3 (2006), which also starred Chinese actress Shu Qi, and the upcoming Sector 7, a monster horror movie that is slated for release in cinemas here on Nov 3.

Getting to where he is today, he says, is due to plain old determination and hard work.

Oh, who is commonly noted for his dashing good looks as well as his acting abilities, says seriously: "When I first debuted 13 years ago, people seemed to focus only on my looks and wondered if I could ever be taken seriously. But I think my persistence to move forward in the industry might have changed that a little. The constant spotlight on my looks over my work is all in the past – I hope."

Which is why he is not at all concerned by the potential pressure of having to compete with the onslaught of younger, hotter actors.

The winner of acting awards such as the KBS Drama Award for Excellence for his role in historical drama Chuno last year, says matter-of-factly: "I am actually more than happy to be able to work with the younger generation whenever I can.

"Since there is more than a 10-year gap between my experience and theirs, I feel that we can actually use the opportunity to share our different ideals with each other. It is all part of the learning process to be better at what you do." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

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