Isnin, 3 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Amnesty says Syria's diplomats harass dissidents

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:21 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Syrian diplomats in foreign capitals are mounting campaigns of harassment and threats against expatriate dissidents protesting outside their embassies, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Syrian opposition supporters have mounted noisy protests outside many embassies in recent months as the government of Bashar al-Assad has tried to put down unrest with what observers say has been a bloody crackdown.

Amnesty said embassy officials had filmed and threatened some of those involved in protests outside Syria, and that in some cases relatives in Syria had been deliberately targeted for harassment, detention, torture and outright disappearance.

"Expatriate Syrians have been trying, through peaceful protest, to highlight abuses that we consider amount to crimes against humanity - and that presents a threat to the Syrian regime," said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International's Syria researcher.

"In response the regime appears to have waged a systematic - sometimes violent - campaign to intimidate Syrians overseas into silence. This is yet more evidence that the Syrian government will not tolerate legitimate dissent and is prepared to go to great lengths to muzzle those who challenge it publicly."

Syrian officials have generally denied reports of human rights abuses, with the Assad government saying it has no choice but to restore law and order and avert chaos.

The group said it had documented cases of more than 30 activists in eight countries -- Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States -- who had faced some form of direct intimidation.

In many cases, those protesting outside Syrian embassies complained they had been initially filmed or photographed by officials and then received phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages warning them to stop.

In some cases, those contacting them openly admitted they were embassy officials, demanding they stop any kind of political action and threatening a variety of consequences.

Naima Darwish, a Syrian protester living in Chile, says she was contacted directly by an embassy official who asked to meet her after she set up a Facebook group to organise a protest at the Santiago embassy.

"He told me that I should not to do such things," she told Amnesty. "He said I would lose the right to return to Syria if I continued."

One protester in Spain, Imad Mouhalhel, said his brother Aladdin had been detained in Syria for several days in July, had been shown photos and videos of protests outside the Madrid embassy and asked to identify Imad.

Aladdin was then briefly released before being detained again in August and apparently forced to phone Imad to tell him to stop his political actions. Aladdin had not been seen since, Amnesty said, expressing "grave fears" for his safety.

The rights group said Western governments had been far too slow to take action to rein in Damascus' diplomats.

"We look to host governments to act on credible allegations of abuses without waiting for formal complaints," said Amnesty's Sammonds.

"Many of the people we have spoken to are too scared of what could happen to them to make formal complaints with the police. We would expect that any official found responsible for such acts should be prosecuted, or - if diplomatic immunity prevents that - asked to leave the country."

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Syrian forces raid town, Assad's foes unite

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:21 PM PDT

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian forces hunted insurgents in the central region of Homs as they sought to crush armed resistance that is emerging after six months of protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Monday's crackdown came a day after Syrian opposition groups met in Istanbul and urged international action to stop what they called indiscriminate killings of civilians by the authorities.

The United States welcomed the development, saying it was encouraged by the opposition's statements supporting non-violence, and blamed the mounting death toll on the Syrian authorities.

Local activists said a military operation on Monday focused on Talbiseh near Homs, 150 km (94 miles) north of Damascus, after security forces entered the nearby town of Rastan, which lies on the highway between the capital and the northern city of Aleppo.

For about a week, tank- and helicopter-backed troops have battled insurgents and army deserters in Rastan, in the most sustained fighting since Syria's uprising began in March. The official Syrian news agency said on Saturday government forces had regained control of the town.

"Tank fire targeted Talbiseh this morning and communications remain cut. The town was key in supplying Rastan and now it is being punished for that," one activist said. "House to house arrests are continuing in the area for the second day."

Armed insurgents, mostly in the central Homs region and the northwestern province of Idlib, have been so far outgunned.

Activists said dozens of villagers had been arrested in Talbiseh in the past 48 hours and there were deaths and casualties from the raids.

Information also was scarce from Rastan, which has been sealed off since tanks moved in at the weekend. Activists said hundreds of people were believed to have been arrested and held in schools and factories in the town.

Events on the ground are difficult to verify as the authorities have expelled independent journalists from the country or banned them from working, although some foreign reporters have been allowed to visit.


Amnesty International ssaid that Syrian diplomats in foreign capitals are mounting campaigns of harassment and threats against expatriate dissidents protesting outside their embassies.

Syrian opposition supporters have mounted noisy protests outside many embassies in recent months as the government of Bashar al-Assad has tried to put down unrest with what observers say has been a bloody crackdown.

Amnesty said on Tuesday that embassy officials had filmed and threatened some of those involved in protests outside Syria, and that in some cases relatives in Syria had been deliberately targeted for harassment, detention, torture and outright disappearance.

"Expatriate Syrians have been trying, through peaceful protest, to highlight abuses that we consider amount to crimes against humanity - and that presents a threat to the Syrian regime," said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International's Syria researcher.

Syrian officials have generally denied reports of human rights abuses, with the Assad government saying it has no choice but to restore law and order and avert chaos.


While some Assad opponents have taken up arms, others are still staging demonstrations against his 11-year rule. Night protests erupted on Sunday in several districts of Homs, where a crowd in the Khalidiya district shouted, "Homs is free."

A surge in sectarian killings has heightened tensions in the city. The state news agency said "armed terrorist groups" killed five people there on Monday. Residents said two bodies had turned up in the city's Sunni Qarabid neighbourhood.

Homs has a mixed population, with a few Alawite neighbourhoods inhabited by members of Assad's minority sect, alongside others populated by majority Sunni Muslims.

Underlining the turn towards violence, the authorities said Sariya Hassoun, the son of Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, Syria's state-appointed top cleric, was assassinated in Idlib on Sunday.

It was the first attack on the state-backed Sunni clergy who have backed Assad for decades, despite widespread Sunni resentment at Alawite dominance.

Assad, 46, who succeeded his father in 2000, blames the violence on foreign-backed armed gangs. His officials say 700 police and soldiers have died, as well as 700 "mutineers".

As Syria's struggle has grown bloodier, claiming at least 2,700 lives so far, according to a U.N. count, demonstrators have begun to demand some form of international protection that stops short of Libya-style Western military intervention.

A statement issued in Istanbul on Sunday by a newly formed opposition National Council rejected intervention that "compromises Syria's sovereignty", but said the outside world had a humanitarian obligation to protect the Syrian people.

"The Council demands that international governments and organisations meet their responsibility to support the Syrian people, protect them and stop the crimes and gross human rights violations being committed by the current illegitimate regime."

The council said the uprising must remain peaceful but that military assaults, torture and mass arrests were driving Syria "to the edge of civil war and inviting foreign interference".

It also said the Muslim Brotherhood, the Damascus Declaration -- which groups established opposition figures -- and grassroots activists had all joined the Council.

(Writing by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

Italian appeal court clears Amanda Knox of murder

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 05:50 PM PDT

PERUGIA, Italy (Reuters) - Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend left prison after four years on Monday when an Italian appeals court cleared them of the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

Amanda Knox, the U.S. student convicted of murdering her British flatmate Meredith Kercher in Italy in November 2007, arrives in court for her appeal trial session in Perugia October 3, 2011. The court cleared Knox and her former boyfriend of murdering Kercher in 2007 and set them free on Monday. (REUTERS/Giorgio Benvenuti)

Seattle native Knox and Italian computer student Raffaele Sollecito, had appealed against a 2009 verdict that found them guilty of murdering the 21-year-old Kercher during what prosecutors had said was a drug-fuelled sexual assault four years ago.

A whoop of joy was heard in the court as the ruling overturning their sentences was read out but Knox herself broke down and was led out sobbing and supported by police officers.

"As you could see from the images, Amanda was a nervous wreck who just collapsed. She wasn't able to say anything other than 'thank you' in a flood of tears," one of her lawyers, Maria Del Grosso, told reporters.

Speaking to a crowd outside the courtroom, Knox's sister Deanna thanked her legal team and supporters.

"We're thankful that Amanda's nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit," she said. "We are also thankful to the court for having the courage to look for the truth and to overturn the conviction."

The verdict, a severe embarrassment to the Italian justice system, came after independent forensic investigators sharply criticised police scientific evidence in the original investigation, saying it was unreliable.

Kercher's half-naked body, with more than 40 wounds and a deep gash in the throat, was found in 2007 in the apartment she shared with Knox in the Umbrian hill town of Perugia where both were studying.

Both Knox and Sollecito, 27, consistently had maintained their innocence throughout the original investigation and trial. A third man, Ivorian drug dealer Rudy Guede, was imprisoned for 16 years for his role in the murder.

Knox returned briefly to the Perugia jail where she had been held to complete formalities before being driven away to an unknown destination in a black Mercedes with shaded windows.

She is expected to return to the United States on Tuesday although it was not immediately clear whether she would be returning on a regular flight or on a private plane.

Sollecito, who had been held in a separate jail near Perugia, also left custody but his lawyer refused to say where he would be spending his first night of freedom.

"It was obvious that he had nothing to do with the death of that poor girl," Sollecito's father, a doctor, said after the verdict which he said had "given me back my son".

The court upheld a conviction against Knox for slander, after she had falsely accused barman Patrick Lumumba of the murders. It sentenced her to three years in prison, a sentence which she has now already served.


The verdict left many questions regarding the murder open and Kercher's family members sat stunned in the court long after the others had left. Meredith's sister Stephanie was in tears.

"We respect the decision of the judges but we do not understand how the decision from the first trial could be so radically overturned," the Kerchers said in a statement released through the British embassy.

"We still trust the Italian judicial system and hope that the truth will eventually emerge."

Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said his client would be marked by the case for life and by the memory of her friend Meredith but wanted to get back to normal life.

"She's a girl who wants to live, she wants to go home, she wants to go to Seattle, she wants to be with her family and so I think she will spend some time to get over these four years in prison," he said.

The appeal trial gripped attention on both sides of the Atlantic, with an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from many in the United States who saw the American as an innocent girl trapped abroad in the clutches of a medieval justice system.

Supporters celebrated in Knox's home town of Seattle, shouting in triumph as the verdict was carried live on television.

"I'm hugely relieved," said John Lange, who taught Knox's high school drama class at Seattle Preparatory School.

"When I knew her she was kind, hard-working and a team player. There was not a mean bone in her body," he said, wiping away tears with a tissue.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. embassy in Rome would continue to assist the Knox family.

"The United States appreciates the careful consideration of this matter within the Italian judicial system," she said.

A powerful lobbying campaign by her family played a big part in changing perceptions of Knox from the promiscuous "Foxy Knoxy" of early media reports and the cold-blooded, sex-obsessed "she-devil" portrayed by prosecutors.

But the verdict was not universally welcomed and outside the court hundreds of people whistled, booed and shouted "Shame, shame" and "bastards" at the courtroom and at U.S. TV crews.


During the appeals trial Knox's plight in jail dominated much of the reporting, leaving Kercher's family feeling that the real victim of the crime had been pushed to one side.

"Mez has been almost forgotten in all of this," her sister Stephanie said before the verdict, as the family emphasised that the brutality of the crime must not be forgotten.

Kercher, a Leeds University student from Coulsdon in Surrey, was on a year-long exchange programme in Perugia when she was murdered, bringing a flood of unwelcome attention to the medieval town in central Italy that her family said she loved.

The murder investigation showed she was pinned down and stabbed to death and evidence suggests that Guede did not act alone, although Monday's verdict left it unclear who else might have been involved.

Prosecutors had said that Kercher resisted attempts by Knox, Sollecito and Guede to involve her in an orgy. Their case was weakened by forensic experts who dismissed police evidence that traces of DNA belonging to Knox and Kercher were found on a kitchen knife identified as the murder weapon.

The experts also said alleged traces of Sollecito's DNA on the Briton's bra clasp may have been contaminated.

The defence argued that no clear motive or evidence linking the defendants to the crime had emerged, and said Knox was falsely implicated in the murder by prosecutors determined to convict her regardless of the evidence.

(Writing by James Mackenzie, Editing by Michael Roddy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Fusion of flavours

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 04:37 AM PDT

Get ready for a gastronomic experience as Singaporean musical TV serial The Kitchen Musical reaches our shores.

AT the launch of musical TV drama series The Kitchen Musical (TKM) in Singapore recently, director Cheek announced that his latest offering was dedicated to Asians. He said: "To the foodie in all of us, the lover of drama and the ones who have bust a move whilst singing in the shower, this one's for you."

Although his candid statement had the crowd in stitches, it didn't sound surprising as Asians are, after all, passionate about food. And what better way to pay tribute to our love of food than through a gastromonic and tempting experience, that is – TKM.

The musical TV series, produced by Singaporean production house The Group Entertainment (TGE), was created based on the idea of a musical TV series that homes in on Asia's passion for food. The epicurean musical extravaganza is the brainchild of Penang-born Cheek, whose real name is Cheah Chee Keong.

"I was born in Penang and have an affinity for its hawker food. TKM is a culmination of my creative journey and obsession with food. I wanted to create a fresh and original concept that is identifiable within the region.

"We wrote a storyline that you can sink your teeth into, flavoured it with talented performers, sprinkled with amazing songs and slithered it with dance moves – stewing in its own juices and erupting in a masterpiece chock-full of creativity and entertainment," said Cheek, TGE's executive vice-president and creative director.

Song and dance about food

While Cheek's latest offering combines food, drama and music, it does make one wonder if he is jumping onto the bandwagon to join in the musical TV drama craze after successful Emmy award-wining Glee.

"Even though there are similarities to Glee, to my knowledge, this is the first time in the world something like this is being done. TKM fuses food, song, dance and drama.

"The idea has been brewing in my mind for over 10 years but I wasn't prepared at the point in my life to direct a drama series of this sort.

"In early 2000, I was busy with work commitments (Cheek was MTV Japan's creative director) and filming my debut feature movie, Chicken Rice Wars. It was only recently that it dawned upon me to concentrate on this project," said Cheek, whose film had garnered international honours, including the Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001.

TKM is a multi-million production, featuring a blend of drama, popular songs (dating from the 1980s till present), sizzling dance sequences and mouth-watering recipes.

Revolving around the exciting world of culinary arts, it is about rich, young Maddie Avilon (Karylle Tatlonghari), who is fresh out of culinary school in Paris. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery when she starts working for The Avilon – her father's prestigious restaurant. However, she learns that she cannot always get her way by being Daddy's girl, especially when working with head chef Alex Marcus (Stephen Rahman Hughes), notoriously known for his ruthless pursuit of perfection.

Also headlining the 13-episode TV series are Filipino singer/actor Christian Bautista (playing sous chef and Maddie's best friend Daniel Ray), Hong Kong model Rosemary Vandenbroucke (Selena Argon, The Avilon's sexy sommelier) and New York-based Filipino actor Arthur Acuna (Harry Shaw, The Avilon's general manager).

In selecting the cast, Cheek wanted an international team comprising Asians, Caucacians and blacks. As such, his casting went out around the Asian region and as far as North America and Australia.

"I wanted a specific look so viewers wouldn't know its country of origin. When I showed the test pilot overseas, many thought it was shot in Latin America. The cast members look like they can be from any part of the world. This is, after all, how Asian kitchens and restaurants operate these days (with international staff)," said 40-something Cheek.

But according to him, it took a fair bit of convincing to rope in most of these in-demand actors.

"It was a hurdle to find triple threat actors – acting, singing and dancing – in one package. It was equally challenging to convince them to join our production due to their busy schedules in their respective countries. Luckily, they agreed to be part of it after watching the test pilot.

"The casting has been close to perfect. Everyone has strong voices and their acting is of high standard, too. It is so cool to see what each actor brings to the table. They all have a lot of admiration for each other," said Cheek, adding that filming commenced middle of the year.

Stephen felt compelled to work on the project as it enabled him to showcase his acting, singing and dancing talents.

"I couldn't stop thinking about how great it would be to do a TV show with all the experience I've gained in the different skills over the years. Glee paved the way for us, no doubt, but there have been many musical shows over the years, such as Fame.

"TKM is different from Glee though. The setting and subject matter is unusual for a start and the format has a very different flavour (pun intended).

"Cooking is the central subject of the show with dancing, singing and the drama of a high pressured kitchen and restaurant. It is intense.

"Storytelling with songs is an age-old concept, so great TV mixed with fantastic songs that are already big hits, is a sure way to attract viewers," said Stephen, who has appeared in numerous leading roles in musicals such as Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical, Bombay Dreams, West Side Story, The Merchant Of Venice and KRU Studio's Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.

Last June, Cheek sent the cast to a three-week boot camp to immerse themselves in the world of culinary arts.

"It was important to ensure they know what they are doing. In the kitchen, they have the same ingredients as on the station so they are going through the motion and this is very important when recording. I also worked with culinary consultant and chef Bertrand Cheo in creating recipes for the series," said Cheek, adding that Singapore Repertory Theatre will adapt the series into a musical in September next year.

"During bootcamp, actors learnt basic cooking skills so we knew what we were doing on screen. It is very important as everyone needed to understand their role. Thankfully, everyone still has all their fingers intact and no burns," said Stephen, a trained classical dancer and vocalist in opera group Teatro.

The musical production features a talented production team, including Australian choreographer and judge of Australia's So You Think You Can Dance Jason Coleman, Filipino music director Gerard Salonga and international make-up artist Massimiliano Della Maggesa, whose credentials include working with fashion designers Alexander McQueen, Donna Karan and ChloƩ.

Coleman said working with Cheek has been a joy due to his professionalism and dedication.

"I have worked with many directors and what sets him apart is he is focused, dedicated and knows what he wants on screen. As a choreographer, I am a translator, giving directors what they need through dance.

"Cheek selects the music and scenes and my job is to come up with the entire vocabulary as to how it should be interpreted," said Coleman, adding that the series features his choreography creativeness in song genres, including pop, rock and R&B.

The Kitchen Musical premieres tonight (8.30pm) on Ntv7. It will air on AXN (Astro Ch 701) on Oct 15 (8pm).

'Arrested Development' returning to TV for mini-season

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 03:29 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES ( The Bluths are back. At least, that's what Mitch Hurwitz said Sunday. Speaking alongside former cast members of the long-cancelled Fox comedy ''Arrested Development'' at the New Yorker Festival, the creator/executive producer said the show will return for a mini-season of nine or 10 episodes before it's adapted into a feature film.

Series star Will Arnett seconded Hurwitz's pledge on his Twitter feed, @arnettwill, while, er, standing next to co-star Jason Bateman: ''I'm peeing with @batemanjason at the moment ... and we can confirm that we are going to make new AD eps and a movie.''

Neither Fox's TV studio or its broadcast network arm have announced this project; series co-producer Imagine Entertainment also has yet to confirm it.

Running on Fox over three seasons from 2003 to 2006, ''Arrested Development'' received six Emmy Awards and plenty of critical acclaim, but it could never establish a broad audience - it topped out at about 6 million viewers in its third season.

Of course, where and when this reunion happens, and how it happens, are still question marks.

For example, with Arnett's new NBC series, ''Up All Night,'' off to a hot start, will producer NBC Universal let him moonlight on a rival network's comedy?


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IRB: Samoa centre Sapolu Fuimaono suspended from all rugby

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:34 PM PDT

AUCKLAND (Reuters): Samoa centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono has been suspended from all rugby after he failed to appear at a judicial hearing in Auckland on Tuesday after he criticised Welsh referee Nigel Owens on social networking website Twitter.

Sapolu Fuimaono had labelled Owens "biased' and a "racist" after his side's 13-5 World Cup Pool D loss to South Africa on Friday and was ordered to appear at a hearing on Tuesday.

The IRB said the hearing was adjourned by judicial officer Jeff Blackett when Sapolu Fuimaono failed to appear.

"The judicial officer determined that due to the players failure to attend the hearing he would adjourn the case to an appropriate time when he would face the charges against him," the tournament organisers said in a statement.

"Pending the holding of such hearing he ordered that Sapolu Fuimaono be provisionally suspended from all participation in the game of rugby union."

The Samoan had previously apologised and escaped punishment for an earlier outburst on the social media site in which he compared the scheduling of Samoa's World Cup matches to the holocaust.

Organisers said he had been issued with a formal warning for that initial outburst.

The Samoan Rugby Union on Tuesday accepted a charge of failing to properly control the player and Blackett said he would address any sanction against the union when the hearing for Sapolu Fuimaono reconvenes.

The 30-year-old, who plays for English club Gloucester, had said in his expletive-laden tirade last week that he had retired from international rugby after Samoa failed to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament.

Owens had an indifferent refereeing display in the South Africa-Samoa match and showed a controversial red card to Sapolu Fuimaono's team mate Paul Williams late on after a clash with Heinrich Brussow.

The IRB have since backed Owens and appointed him to take charge of the tournament's fourth quarter-final between New Zealand and Argentina in Auckland on Sunday.

Lesser nations cry foul over the World Cup’s unbalanced schedule

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:31 PM PDT

RUGBY'S lesser nations were the heroes and the schedule was the villain in the World Cup's group stages, where valiant efforts to close the gap on big teams were compromised by a punishing timetable.

A series of battling defeats in the early matches gave way to increasingly one–sided scorelines as rugby's up–and–comers were repeatedly given only a few days' rest between games, while established nations played just once a week.

Tournament officials said the schedule was based on maximising TV revenues by allowing the best teams to play mainly at weekends, pointing out that millions of dollars were invested in minor nations' development.

But the controversy refused to die after outspoken Samoan centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono compared the system to the "holocaust" and "apartheid", and several teams voiced their disapproval in less extreme terms.

"It does takes its toll, there's no question. It's a hard slog," said USA coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who experienced an easier draw when he guided Ireland in 2003 and 2007.

"When you get down to the back end of the group games, a number of games in a short space of time, you pick up injuries, fatigue.

"All those games against established teams are real killers in terms of what they take out of the team physically and mentally, so I think we're beginning to see daylight appearing now in some other results."

The quarter–final draw is now made up exclusively of rugby's northern and southern hemisphere giants, despite a late charge by Pacific sides Tonga, who stunned France, and Samoa, who tested South Africa.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) released analysis after the first two rounds showing 'tier two' teams were catching up, with the points difference in their games against the big sides down to 29, from 42 in 2007.

But New Zealand, England, Australia, Ireland, South Africa and Wales then totted up a series of huge scores against struggling opposition.

James Robson, long-time doctor to Scotland and the British and Irish Lions, said teams needed a minimum of five days between games, but ideally between six and eight.

"I think to turnaround in international Test rugby now within four days is asking a great deal of the players that we are trying to care for," Robson said.

Samoa were particularly incensed when they had just three days off between their games against Namibia and Wales, against whom they then suffered their first–ever World Cup defeat.

And Namibia's search for their first ever World Cup win was not aided by a punishing schedule of four games in 16 days.

"It's hard to play South Africa on Thursday and then have to play Wales on Monday. The turnaround was not suitable, not the most positive thing," said coach Johan Diergaardt, who returned to his day job after flying home.

However, Tonga rounded off the group stages with a fabulous 19-14 win over France, while Samoa's fighting 13-5 defeat to South Africa was also a highlight although Fiji's campaign ended 66-0 at the hands of Wales.

France also had some nervy moments against both Japan and Canada, who impressed with some rugged displays as they beat Tonga and drew with the Japanese.

Japan's bid to be the "most improved side" was called into question as they yet again failed to win a game, extending a World Cup drought that stretches back to 1991.

And the former eastern bloc showed signs of things to come as Georgia beat Romania, and Russia scored tries against Italy, Ireland and Australia on their World Cup debut. – AFP

On-form Ireland to treat Wales encounter as a Cup final

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:29 PM PDT

Thousands of green–clad fans were thronging the bars outside Otago Stadium and captain Brian O'Driscoll (pic) was still in his kit when Ireland coach Declan Kidney was jolted from his enjoyment of the 36-6 World Cup victory over Italy on Sunday.

Glancing at his watch, he said, in some exasperation at the post–match news conference: "Phew, you don't give us much time do you?"       

The comment was in response to the first of the no doubt several dozen times he will be asked this week about Saturday's quarter–final against Wales in Wellington when Ireland have their best chance of getting to the semi–finals for the first time.       

"It will be like a Cup final," he said. "That's what this competition is all about. Today was a Cup final and thankfully we've qualified for another one.       

"It will be like a Six Nations game because the players know each other so well, space will be cut down. We know each other's style of play so it's a fantastic challenge."

Ireland's previous four quarter–finals have ended with two defeats by Australia and two by France but it was their group victory over the Wallabies this time that has given them a dream path to the final, with a potential semi against France or England on the horizon.       

"They've got a team who can knock over anyone in that side of the draw in the quarters and the semis," said Italy coach Nick Mallett.       

"I don't think any team can be confident against them. Where is their weakness?"       

They certainly showed all sides of their game on Sunday as their pack stood toe to toe in a tense, bruising, often violent, first half before the backs took charge in the second.       

"There was a pressure on us to perform and we responded well to it," said O'Driscoll.

"We kept the scoreboard ticking over well, then we carved out some good chances and were clinical in how we took them."       

O'Driscoll will be facing Wales for the 14th time on Saturday and, despite the optimism sweeping through Irish fans, he said the match would always be a tough one to call.       

"The games have been incredibly close in my career," he said.       

"It hasn't really mattered where they've been played, we've won in Cardiff and they've won in Dublin.

"There's not much between the sides and I envisage it will be another close one."       

Ireland look to be going into the game in relatively good shape physically, though Rory Best could be a concern after the hooker suffered what seemed a serious–looking shoulder injury on Sunday. – Reuters


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Wall Street hits 13-month low, Asian stocks continue fall Tue

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:03 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks slumped in heavy volume to a 13-month low on Monday as investors dumped bank shares on fears that Greece's worsening financial crisis could cause a large European lender to fail.

Investors pegged losses to the sharp fall in Franco-Belgian financial group Dexia, which fell 10 percent after a Moody's warning about its liquidity due to concerns about exposure to Greece.

Markets have feared European officials will be unable to prevent Greece's fiscal crisis from turning into a global banking crisis. Greece said it will miss its deficit targets this year and next, which could limit the country's ability to receive more aid.

"Most investors fear that markets in Europe are going to run well ahead of politicians that are not going to be able to get any kind of reasonable solution," said Jack de Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

U.S. banks have become a target for speculators. Morgan Stanley closed at its lowest since December 2008, and the cost to insure its debt has jumped as other banks hedge counterparty exposures and traders bet on the situation worsening.

The recession that wiped 12 years of gains off the S&P 500 was caused in part by a credit crisis.

"We are going to have a disorderly default in Greece and there could be another banking crisis in Europe as they are undercapitalized and loaded with (sovereign) debt," De Gan said.

Morgan Stanley has been the most volatile bank in recent weeks, with the cost to insure its debt rising to November 2008 levels, according to Markit data.

Morgan Stanley shares fell 7.6 percent to $12.47 and the S&P financial sector was down 4.5 percent.

The market's focus on Morgan Stanley stems from a perception about their reliance on short-term funding, said Harbor Advisory's De Gan. "They rely on the credit markets and that was the downfall of Lehman and other institutions three years ago," he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 258.08 points, or 2.36 percent, to 10,655.30.

The S&P 500 fell 32.19 points, or 2.85 percent, to 1,099.23.

The Nasdaq Composite lost 79.57 points, or 3.29 percent, to 2,335.83.

The S&P 500 broke through a previously strong technical support level near 1,120 before hitting a 13-month intraday low just below 1,100.

The benchmark is also down 19.4 percent from its closing high this year, nearly entering a bear market, which is defined as a 20 percent decline from its recent high set on April 29.

A stronger-than-expected reading in a gauge of U.S. manufacturing briefly lifted Wall Street stocks, but global manufacturing shrank for the first time in over two years in September, reinforcing fears of another recession.

The revelations that Athens would miss its deficit targets for both this year and next despite harsh new austerity measures will be the focus of talks as euro zone finance ministers meet to discuss the next steps toward resolving the currency area's sovereign debt crisis.

Dexia called an emergency board meeting after concerns about its exposure to Greece and a Moody's warning about its liquidity position raised pressure on Belgium and France to act.

Shares of AMR Corp , parent of American Airlines, lost a third of their market value as analysts debated the prospects for a bankruptcy filing for the U.S. airline, which lags its industry peers.

More than 11 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, about 38 percent above the year's current daily average of 7.98 billion.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on both the NYSE and Nasdaq by a ratio of about 10 to 1.

Reuters reports on Tuesday

* TOKYO, Oct 4 (Reuters) The Nikkei average dropped over 2 percent in early trade Tuesday to its lowest in six months as trading companies fell on weaker commodity prices and the financial sector was pressured by fears that Europe's debt crisis is spreading.

The Nikkei was down 2.1 percent at 8,369.08. The broader Topix index declined 2.2 percent to 730.71.

* SEOUL, Oct 4 (Reuters) Seoul shares extended falls to more than 6 percent in early trade on Tuesday as investors dumped stocks amid deepening fears over Greece's debt crisis.

Declines were led by banking stocks, with KB Financial Group shedding 7.9 percent and Shinhan Financial Group dropping 9.4 percent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 6 percent at 1,663.22 points as of 0048 GMT, after hitting as low as 1,658.06 points, its lowest in a week.

* SINGAPORE, Oct 4 (Reuters) Brent crude fell more than a dollar to below $101 a barrel, pressured by growing fears of a Greek default and a stronger dollar.

Brent crude for November delivery dropped to an intraday low of $100.51 a barrel, down $1.20 in early Asia trading and within striking distance of an eightweek low.

U.S. crude slipped $1.35 to $76.26 a barrel by 0042 GMT.

"Brent crude continues to feel the weight of economic concerns as it appears that Greece will miss deficit targets and worries about the health of European banks remain," J.P. Morgan said in a research note.

Oil, world stock markets and the euro have tumbled this week on rising concerns the debt crisis in Greece could spread to other countries and spark a global recession.

* SYDNEY Oct 4 (Reuters) Australian stocks eased 0.5 percent on Tuesday, pressured by falls in global equities markets in a fresh flight from riskier assets, but losses were limited after steep declines on Monday.

"Everyone is looking for a bottom at the moment, everyone is nervous," said Patersons Securities dealer Martin Angel.

"It's going to continue to be volatile and you've just got to ride it through. People are talking about a massive slowdown in China but they are still going to need a serious amount of resources to keep their economy going," said Angel.

Indeed, the top miners that export to China fared better on Tuesday than the major banks, where worries about the increased cost of funding pushed losses to between 0.2 percent and 1.0 percent, led down by National Australia Bank's 1 percent fall.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 21.2 points at 3,875.8 at 2352 GMT. The index slid 2.8 percent on Monday in light trade.

* New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.4 percent to 3,301.9.

Among the retailers David Jones slid 6 percent to A$2.85 and Just Jeans owner Premier lost 5.5 percent to A$5.10.

* TAIPEI, Oct 4 (Reuters) Taiwan stocks fell 1.09 percent in early trade on Tuesday, following losses in regional bourses, on growing concerns Greece's worsening financial crisis could drag down the global economy.

At the opening bell, the main TAIEX index dropped 76.73 points to 6,937.24, after closing down 2.93 percent in the previous session.

Among the worst hit, construction , cement and banking all shed over 2 percent. The heavilyweighted electronics subindex was off 1.47 percent.

The Taiwan dollar weakened by T$0.135 to stand at T$30.722.

Foreign investors were net sellers on Monday, bringing their total selling at T$13.1 billion this month.

Japan finmin calls for transparent Greek rescue plan

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 05:49 PM PDT

Published: Tuesday October 4, 2011 MYT 8:49:00 AM

TOKYO, Oct 4 (Reuters) Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi urged Europe on Tuesday to come up with a transparent scheme to resolve the Greek debt crisis, to help stabilise world economy and keep the euro from weakening too much against the yen.

He told reporters after a cabinet meeting that Tokyo share prices are undervalued when looking at Japanese firms' actual strength, and renewed a pledge to tackle the yen's rises, saying they are becoming a destabilising factor for Japanese exporters.

Ernst & Young reports US$22.9bil global revenue

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 05:44 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ernst & Young , the world's third-largest accounting and consulting firm, said its global revenues rose 7.6 percent in fiscal year 2011 as investments in emerging markets bore fruit.

Helped by over 20 percent growth in markets such as Brazil and India, revenues rose to $22.88 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30 2011, up from $21.26 billion in 2010.

A $1.5 billion investment program launched five years ago, the bulk of it earmarked for emerging markets, was a key driver of the results, Ernst & Young said in a statement.

Revenues in Brazil grew 26 percent, while India's rose 22 percent, Africa's rose 19 percent and China's climbed 18 percent, Ernst & Young said.

Global head count rose by nearly 11,000 to an all-time high of 152,000.

Ernst & Young is one of the "Big Four" audit firms, ranking behind PwC and Deloitte and ahead of KPMG in global revenues.

Like its rivals, Ernst & Young has taken advantage of resurgent demand for consulting and advisory work as revenues from traditional audits leveled off.

Advisory and consulting revenues at Ernst & Young rose 17.5 percent in fiscal 2011 to $4.3 billion, while audit and related services rose 5 percent to $10.6 billion. Revenues from tax services rose 6 percent to $6.0 billion and transaction advisory services revenue rose 7.7 percent to $2.0 billion.

The fast-growing consulting businesses of the Big Four have raised eyebrows among some European Union authorities, who are considering curbs on non-audit services to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

A draft European Union law that was leaked last week called for sharp restrictions on non-audit work.


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On the hunt

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 11:57 PM PDT

A college project turns into an adventure of a lifetime for three students.

TROLLS. Aren't they those cute little things in the gift shop with the wide eyes, big bellies and fluorescent Don King haircuts? In Norway, they are anything but that. So when director Andre Ovredal was searching for a subject for his first commercial feature film, he drew on a topic all Norwegians are familiar with – trolls.

Like most Norwegians, Ovredal grew up listening to fairy tales which included a mythology of trolls.

"When I was very young, my grandparents used to read to me from a book written in the 1850s called The Fairy Tales Of Asbjornsen And Moe, half of which related to trolls," he recalls. "They varied from cute little creatures to big monsters."

It was the latter which inspired the writer/director to create Troll Hunter. The book was filled with drawings made by a Norwegian artist named Theodor Kittelsen. "They're mostly of these monster-like trolls. Some are cozier and kinder, but some of them are really terrifying – more terrifying even than the trolls in our film."

The movie showcases several varieties of trolls – the three-headed Tosserlad (turns to stone with flashes of bright light), the beastly one-armed Ringlefinch (explodes with a blinding light), the cave-dwelling phallic-nosed Mountain King troll, and the gigantic icy mountain-dwelling Jotnar troll (turns to stone with a lightning grenade).

Troll Hunter, though, doesn't focus on trolls as much as it does on their hunter, Hans (along with his three student observers).

"It's really a portrait of the troll hunter, more than anything," Ovredal says.

The director drew inspiration from the 1992 Belgian film, Man Bites Dog, which features a film crew following the exploits of a serial killer. "It has an extremely dark sense of humour," Ovredal says. This is something he and his cast brought to this film, as well.

The story here follows three students from Volda College – Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) and Johanna (Johanna Morck) – who decide to investigate news reports of unusual incidents in the mountains and forests of Norway, and cover the events for a school project.

Toting a video camera – operated by Kalle, with Johanna running sound and Thomas doing the reporting – they come upon a scene where regulated/licensed hunters are being told by a Wildlife Board official, Finn Haugen (Hans Morten Hansen), that the problems are all caused by bears. But the hunters aren't buying it and they suspect a poacher.

Finding the said poacher – a quiet, weathered, middle-aged man named Hans (Otto Jespersen) who calls himself a troll hunter, the trio tail him into the woods.

A former navy ranger, Hans was actually hired years earlier as a troll exterminator. Burned out from countless years of performing a thankless job dealing with ferocious, gigantic and immensely dangerous trolls, Hans agrees to allow the group to accompany him and film his exploits in order to expose the secret the government has been trying to hide for years: the existence of trolls.

To play the role of Hans, Ovredal turned to Norway's most famous comedian, Jespersen. "What I wanted him to bring to the movie was his sense of humour. He's well known for this kind of really crass, dark, negative sense of humour that everybody laughs at, because it's just filled with sarcasm. I just thought that was perfect."

For the three students, Ovredal and producer John M. Jacobsen decided to go with relatively unknown young actors.

Tosterud, who plays Thomas, is a standup comedian and improv actor. He is the go-getter of the bunch, constantly pulling the others along, and, as a result, is the one who drives the film, as well.

Larsen's character Kalle, constantly doubts the group's plans and is loaded with sarcastic barbs he tosses out from behind the lens.

"I actually based him on a cameraman I worked with once," Ovredal explains. "He was standing right next to me, constantly giving me these sarcastic comments about everything – that's what Kalle does.

"Johanna is really the most grounded of the three," the director explains. "She's the one who brings sense into everything."

Rounding out the cast are two popular Norwegian comics Hans Morten Hansen, who, according to Ovredal, is the Guinness World Record holder for longest standup comedy act ever, and Robert Stoltenberg.

Troll Hunter opens in local cinemas on Thursday.

'Dolphin Tale' jumps to top of movie box office

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:23 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Simba the lion may rule the jungle, but he couldn't beat a plucky dolphin at the weekend box office.

Family film ''Dolphin Tale'' made a surprising leap to first place with a projected $14.2 million in domestic ticket sales over three days, studio estimates released on Sunday showed.

The movie about an injured dolphin rehabilitated with a prosthetic tail, which finished third last week, knocked ''The Lion King 3D'' from the box office throne it held the past two weekends. ''Lion King'' dropped to third with $11.1 million.

In between the animal-themed family films was ''Moneyball,'' a baseball drama starring Brad Pitt as a general manager who fields a small-budget team of unlikely contenders.

The film finished in second place with $12.5 million at North American (U.S. and Canadian) theatres.

All three holdover films outranked four newcomers, showing the appeal in recent weeks of feel-good movies over heavier-themed films.

The fall movie season, typically a time for more serious films, has ''seen a shift to the more upbeat and even inspirational films and family fare,'' said Paul Dergarabedian, who heads up Box Office.

''Dolphin Tale'' has gained on strong word-of-mouth buzz after rave reviews from critics and moviegoers, said Andrew Kosove, co-CEO of Alcon Entertainment, the studio that produced the film.

The movie is one of just a few this year to earn an A+ rating from audiences polled by survey firm CinemaScore.

''The Lion King'' also has drawn filmgoers with a triumphant story despite being a 17-year-old film.

The Walt Disney Co animated classic has rung up $79.7 million domestically and $19 million in international markets since it returned to theaters last month.

Combined, ''Lion King'' has grossed $98.7 million during its new run. Of four new releases this weekend, comedy ''50/50'' had the best showing in fourth place but still fell short of studio hopes with $8.9 million.

The film is a buddy comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as a young man with cancer and Seth Rogen as his well-meaning friend.

Despite the heavy topic, the movie earned an A- rating from CinemaScore. The film cost about $8 million to produce.

While the cancer theme posed a ''challenge,'' the film's makers hope audiences in the coming weeks will focus on the relationship between the friends and how the illness is ''handled with humor,'' said Richie Fay, president of domestic distribution for Summit Entertainment, which released the film.

In fifth place was drama ''Courageous,'' a Christian-themed film about four police officers coping with a tragedy.

The movie generated $8.8 million, beating studio forecasts of $6 million and more than earning back its production cost of $2 million. It also won an A+ from CinemaScore.

''Dream House,'' a new horror film, disappointed with $8.3 million to manage only sixth place for its A-list cast.

It stars Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz and James Bond actor Daniel Craig. Critics bashed the movie with only 5 percent surveyed by website Rotten Tomatoes giving a positive review.

Morgan Creek, the studio that produced the film, noted the movie earned a B from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

The weekend's other new film, adult romantic comedy ''What's Your Number?,'' floundered in eighth place with $5.6 million.

In the movie, star Anna Faris revisits past relationships to see if any of her ex-boyfriends look more appealing.

Chris Aronson, senior vice president for domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox, said filmgoers gave the movie a B at CinemaScore and the film attracted a majority female crowd, the target audience.

''Dolphin Tale'' was released by Warner Bros, a unit of Time Warner Inc. Privately held Summit Entertainment distributed ''50/50.''

''Courageous'' and ''Moneyball'' were released by units of Sony Corp. News Corp's 20th Century Fox distributed ''What's Your Number?,'' and ''Dream House'' was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp.

Actor Jeff Conaway's death ruled accidental

Posted: 02 Oct 2011 05:16 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Autopsy results show that Jeff Conaway, the star of ''Taxi'' and ''Grease'' who struggled with addiction before his death in May, died from multiple causes including a major internal infection.

In ruling the actor's death accidental in a report released Friday, the Los Angeles County coroner specified a number of contributing factors, among them septic emboli, aortic valve endocarditis, coronary artery disease, pneumonia and encephalopathy.

The four-month investigation by Coroner Craig Harvey's office did not include a toxicology test because Conaway, 60, had been in the hospital for more than two weeks at the time of his death, and any test for illicit drugs would have come back clean.

Conaway, who had a history of addiction to prescription and nonprescription drugs as well as alcohol, was hospitalized May 10 after being found unconscious in his Los Angeles area home.

At the time, he was also suffering from pneumonia and sepsis and was recovering from back surgery. He remained in a coma until his May 27 death, a day after his family took him off life support.

The actor's problems with addiction were documented in 2008 when he appeared on the TV series ''Celebrity Rehab.''

Conaway found fame when he starred as the wise-cracking teen Kenickie in the 1978 film musical ''Grease,'' alongside John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. He also became a television regular as struggling actor and cabbie Bobby Wheeler on the hit comedy ''Taxi.''

During Conaway's final illness, his manager, Phil Brock, told Reuters that the actor had a rough childhood. ''When he was 7 years-old, his grandmother let him taste the moonshine she made in her bathtub; when he was 10 and a child actor, his dad took all his money and ran away.

Later, Jeff had the world in his hand and would find ways to destroy it,'' Brock said.


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Hishammuddin: ISA repeal can only be tabled in March

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 07:30 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Internal Security Act (ISA) can only be tabled in March next year as the government wants to "get it right" with the two new proposed laws for national security.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the government wanted to ensure that the new acts were balanced with the need to ensure safety and unity of the people, and that all Malaysians were protected under the new laws.

"It is a question of engagement and consultations. We want to get it right. We want to make sure whatever amendment we plan is not just rhetoric," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby, here, Monday.

"This is an opportunity for the government and people to set the ground rules for future transformation, and build a better nation and practise a stronger democratic system," he said.

More in The Star on Tuesday

Some MPs want automatic voter registration implemented

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:03 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Some members of parliament, from both sides of the floor, called for a system for Malaysians to be automatically registered as voters when they reached the age of 21.

The matter had been raised several times by various parties, especially after the government announced the setting up of the Special Select Committee on the country's electoral reform.

Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) said the automatic voter registration could save time and money because political parties would no longer have to campaign to get the people to register as voters, and Election Commission (EC) officers did not have to go to the ground to conduct the voter registration exercises.

"We can do that online, automatically, as long as they are citizens, have identity cards, they can automatically become voters," he said when debating a motion on the setting up of the Special Select Committee on Electoral Reform in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday.

The motion was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz. Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusof (PKR-Balik Pulau), who agreed with Bung Mokhtar, suggested that the minimum voting age be lowered to 18.

Another parliamentary member, Datuk Ibrahim Ali (Independent-Pasir Mas) suggested the EC to collaborate with university vice-chancellors to open voter registration counters in campus.

"Many university students have reached the eligible age, but do not register. If we can open a counter, I believe half of them will register," he added. - Bernama

Dewan approves setting up of select committee on electoral reform (Updated)

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 03:11 AM PDT

Published: Monday October 3, 2011 MYT 11:58:00 AM
Updated: Monday October 3, 2011 MYT 6:11:19 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Dewan Rakyat on Monday approved a motion to set up an Electoral Reform Parliamentary Select Committee by voice vote.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz had tabled the motion under Standing Order 81.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Pakatan Rakyat named Azmin Ali (PKR), Dr Hatta Ramli (PAS) and Anthony Loke (DAP) as its representatives in the committee.

Barisan Nasional had named its four representatives last month - Kapit MP Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi representing Sarawak and the Iban community, Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad (Kangar), Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn (Alor Gajah) and P. Kamalanathan (Hulu Selangor).

More in The Star on Tuesday

Related Stories:
First step towards political reforms
Members of Parliament beg to differ on polls date
EC: Over 69,000 names of dead voters removed from roll
Ongkili heads electoral reform committee
Pakatan agrees to join electoral reform committee
PM: Don't doubt Govt's sincerity in wanting to improve electoral system
PM: Polls at any time, not tied to select committee


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Dog owner unhappy with council’s reasons for fine

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 04:23 AM PDT

A 70-year-old resident of Taman Damai Jaya in Cheras was slapped with a RM1,000 fine because her dog was noisy, not wearing a muzzle and did not have a tag.

Tem Kim Tang said the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) enforcement officers issued her a maximum fine under the Licensing of Dogs and Kennel Establishments By-laws under the Local Government Act 1976.

"But the dog was in the house compound and was never let out," she said.

She added that neighbours had no problems with the dog but a new neighbour once complained to her about the pet's barking.

"My husband did not want animosity between the neighbour so he told me to give the dog away last month.

"After I gave my pet away, I cried for days and could not sleep," she said.

Serdang MCA Public and Services Complaints Bureau chairman Allan Liew said he would follow-up with the council.

"The council should have investigated claims made by the neighbour and given Tem a warning first instead of issuing the summons.

"It is only normal for a dog to bark," he said.

Branches and leaves not collected after tree-trimming exercise

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 04:23 AM PDT

RESIDENTS of Bandar Kinrara 2, Puchong, want the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) to ensure that appointed contractors who carry out maintenance work do their jobs properly.

They are upset with the lack of procedures in a tree-trimming and clearing exercise carried out in Jalan BK 2/7, BK 2/10 and BK 2/12, as the branches are left by the roadside.

Residents said the problem was worsened by contractors of two telecommunications companies digging up Jalan Kinrara 2 to lay cables.

Jalan BK 2/13 resident Jesse James Jeremiah said his sports utility truck was damaged when he accidentally ran into some branches left on the road.

"The incident happened at about 5.30am on Thursday.

"I contacted the MPSJ after lodging a report with the police, and was informed that the council would pay for the damage.

"However, the MPSJ subsequently called me and said the contractor should be held responsible instead," he said.

Jeremiah, 42, who would be getting a quotation on the repair cost today, is worried as to whether the contractor would foot the repair bill or if the matter would be pushed back and forth between the council and contractor.

Bandar Kinrara 2 resident Richie Ng said the tree-trimming exercise was carried out a week ago following a downpour in April when strong winds blew tree branches and leaves onto residents' homes.

"The contractor only started clearing the branches three days after trimming the trees," he said.

Ng said road-digging for the cable-laying job was so extensive that the road was now badly damaged.

Puchong MCA division chairman Datuk Wong Hock Aun believed that the contractors had not been adhering to the procedures in carrying out their jobs.

"The felled branches should have been disposed of in a proper manner. The contractors had left the branches near road causing obstruction to motorists.

"The waste is taking up space while obstruction from the cable-laying work is worsening the traffic congestion near three schools in the area," he said.

He added that the council should have also monitored the contractors to ensure that the work was carried out properly.

"Since Jalan Kinrara 2 is badly damaged, the MPSJ should use the deposit imposed on utility companies to repair the road.

"This main road is used by many residents and it is pertinent for it to be repaired soon," Wong said.

Puchong MCA division secretary Liew Yew Fook, who is a former MPSJ councillor, said Jeremiah had the right to claim from the MPSJ after an official complaint had been lodged with the council.


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