Selasa, 4 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Poets lead running for Nobel Literature prize

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 10:03 PM PDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Two poets, one Swedish and the other Syrian, are leading the betting to win the 2011 Nobel Literature prize, a bookmaker said on Tuesday, though past prizes have often defied the predictions.

Syrian poet Adonis poses after receiving an honorary doctorate during a ceremony at the American University of Beirut, in this June 30, 2007 file photograph. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/Files)

British betting firm Ladbrokes have the 81-year-old Syrian poet known as Adonis at odds of 4/1 and Swede Tomas Transtromer, 80, at 7/1 to win the 10 million crown ($1.5 million) prize, to be announced on Oct.6. Japan's Haruki Murakami was third at 8/1.

All three have been on the betting list of candidates before, but an award to Adonis, a champion of democracy and secular thought, would chime well with Arab Spring revolts in several Middle Eastern nations -- though he has not been without his critics who view his support for the uprisings as too muted.

Apart from his political engagement, Khaled Mattawa, who has translated many of Adonis' works into English, said the Syrian -- named Ali Hamid Saeed at birth -- deserved to be recognised for his artistry.

"When I think of Adonis as a poet ... I think of people like Picasso or Matisse, people who opened up a new way of envisioning experience," Mattawa, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, told Reuters.

Adonis was awarded Germany's prestigious Goethe Prize for literature in May.

"I hope with the greater attention being brought to him, people recognise Arab literature is not only compelling for its content or for the way it might help us to understand Arab societies ... but also (that Adonis's work can) give us a sense of the conceptual prowess we find in modern Arab literature," Mattawa said.

The last poet to win the Nobel Literature prize was Poland's Wislawa Szymborska in 1996.

Transtromer, whose subtle, multi-layered work often deals with the relation between man and nature or the conscious and unconscious, is a regular on the list of favourites to win the prize.

"Transtromer is the person who stands head and shoulders above anyone else," said Neil Astley, founding editor at Transtromer's publishers Bloodaxe Books in Britain.

Interest in Swedish writing has increased in recent years, even if that has mainly been in the crime fiction books of dead writer Stieg Larsson and his "Millennium" trilogy.

"It is not just the crime-writer boom. That has been a locomotive for other Swedish literature," said Helen Sigeland at the Swedish Arts Council, where she is responsible for promoting Swedish literature abroad.

The Nobel prize sometimes results in a surprise choice of an artists who is little known outside a small circle of connoisseurs.

This has included Herta Mueller of Germany in 2009 and Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio in 2008, though the 2010 winner, Mario Vargas Llosa, is widely read. Doris Lessing, Harold Pinter and Orhan Pamuk are also laureates.

One figure who would seem to be a very outside bet is Bob Dylan. Even so, his Ladbrokes odds have narrowed to 10/1 from 100/1 last week.

($1 = 6.775 Swedish Crowns)

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Iraq's Maliki wins backing for U.S. trainers, but no immunity

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 09:33 PM PDT

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday won more backing from the political blocs in his power-sharing government to negotiate on plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq as military trainers, but without granting them immunity if they commit crimes.

The decision by Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs allows Maliki to continue discussing keeping some U.S. soldiers in Iraq after the 2011 deadline for their withdrawal, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) speaks during a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool/Files)

Baghdad and Washington must still negotiate over how many troops will stay on, how long they will stay, and over the tricky issue of jurisdiction, which would afford American soldiers the kind of legal protections they have elsewhere.

"The leaders agreed on the need to train the Iraqi forces and to complete their arming as soon as possible and on the need to support the Iraqi government," Deputy Prime Minister Ross Nuri Shawis said, reading a statement.

"The people who attended the meeting agreed there is no need to grant immunity, in addition to that they suggested training should take place in Iraqi military bases only."

Only supporters of radical anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rejected the accord. His Mehdi Army militia once battled U.S. troops but he is now a key ally of Maliki in parliament.

U.S. officials say they want troops to have similar legal protections to those they have under the current security agreement, which expires this year.

That would mean allowing Iraq some jurisdiction over U.S. troops for certain grave crimes committed outside duty, for example, but the United States would get prime jurisdiction for crimes committed during duty or on its bases.

Violence in Iraq has declined sharply since the bloody days of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007 when Shi'ite and Sunni extremists killed thousands. But bombings, attacks and assassinations still occur daily.

Iraqi and U.S. officials agree that local armed forces are able to contain a stubborn but weakened insurgency, but they say Iraq needs trainers to help the military fill some of its capability gaps, especially in maritime and air defence.

(Reporting by Aseel Kami; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Andrew Roche)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Cleared on appeal, Amanda Knox returns home to Seattle

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 09:33 PM PDT

SEATTLE/PERUGIA (Reuters) - Amanda Knox returned home to Seattle on Tuesday, one day after an Italian court cleared the 24-year-old college student of murder and freed her from prison.

Amanda Knox gestures while speaking during a news conference at Sea-Tac International Airport, Washington after landing there on a flight from Italy October 4, 2011. (REUTERS/Anthony Bolante)

A plane carrying Knox, who grew up in the close-knit West Seattle neighbourhood where both of her divorced parents still live, landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly after 5 p.m. local time.

Knox wiped away tears as she spoke to a throng of reporters at the airport minutes after she stepped off the plane.

"They are reminding me to speak in English because I'm having trouble with that," Knox, 24, said in brief remarks. "I'm really overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane and it seemed like everything wasn't real."

A former University of Washington student, Knox thanked "everyone who has believed in me, who has defended me," during her ordeal. "I just want my family. That's the most important thing to me right now, and I just want to go be with them."

Anne Bremner, a Seattle defense attorney and spokeswoman for Friends of Amanda Knox, said that, according to her family, Knox was looking forward to having a backyard barbecue, being outside in the grass, playing soccer and seeing old friends.

"Just normal things that you would want to do after being in prison for four years for a crime you didn't do," she said.

Knox sobbed on hearing that the court had overturned her 2009 conviction for murdering her housemate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, in what prosecutors have said was a drug-fueled sexual assault.

Also cleared was her former boyfriend, Rafaele Sollecito, leaving Ivorian drifter Rudy Guede as the only person convicted in a killing which investigators believe was carried out by more than one person.

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

The trial gripped attention on both sides of the Atlantic. There was an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from many in the United States who regarded Knox as an innocent girl caught in the clutches of a medieval justice system.


The Italian prosecutor has announced he intends to appeal Knox's acquittal to Italy's highest appellate court, Corte Suprema di Cassazione, which can only review technical errors that occurred in the lower courts.

In Italy, an acquittal becomes final only after all judicial avenues have been pursued. In this case, that would mean the Corte Suprema would have to either affirm or decline to hear the appeal.

If the Corte Suprema overturns the acquittal, it could reinstate the original murder charges against Knox, which would allow prosecutors to seek her extradition from the United States under a treaty between the two countries.

Considering the controversy surrounding the case, legal experts say there likely would be a heated diplomatic dispute before the U.S. would agree to extradite Knox.

Kercher's family has refrained from criticizing Knox or Sollecito but has said repeatedly that Meredith has been forgotten in the media frenzy.

Kercher's sister Stephanie said after the trial "the biggest disappointment (is) not knowing still and knowing that there is someone or people out there who have done this."

Knox's supporters cheered, cried and hugged on Monday at the news that she had been released. Her home, framed by Puget Sound waters on three sides, is one of Seattle's oldest neighborhoods and is known for its strong sense of community.

Evan Hundley, head of the private Explorer Middle School, where Knox attended sixth, seventh and eighth grades, described West Seattle as "a city within a city.

"When something happens here, it's big news," Hundley said. "We're a strong neighborhood."

Hundley said students whooped with delight during the school's daily student assembly on Monday when the news of Knox's release was announced.


Knox won the school's first Manvel Schauffler Award, named after a founder of the school, which has about 100 students who pay an annual average tuition of about $15,000, said Debbie Ehri, the school's business manager, who knew Knox.

"It was our first award for our most outstanding student. Amanda was an academically strong student. She was genuinely a lovely, kind and talented student," Ehri told Reuters.

"Teachers absolutely adored her. She was just delightful to have in class," she said. "She was caring, not only with her studies, but she was a kind, lovely girl."

Knox also attended Seattle Preparatory School, a small Jesuit high school, graduating in 2005. The school organized letter-writing campaigns on her behalf and fund-raising efforts to help pay for her defence.

"She should be free, it's really sad that she was in prison for four years," 47-year-old Cora Ploetz said at the Westwood Village shopping center, a few miles from the home of Curt Knox, Amanda's father.

Her friend, Ken Iverson, said he felt relief for Knox.

"I was under the impression it was like the Inquisition," Iverson, 63, said of the court proceedings.

"She has earning power now that she is free," said Candace Dempsey, Seattle-based author of "Murder in Italy," one of around a dozen books that have ben written on the case.

"She can write a book and she can certainly help her family pay back the bills" they incurred in her defense, and on their prolonged visits to Italy.

(Additional reporting by Nicole Neroulias in Seattle, Noleen Walder in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

In jolly good company

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 04:44 AM PDT

A guy going after his dream job of being a spy ends up being a spy ... of a different kind.

LIKE its namesake, Chaos is a mish-mash of spy-drama and action-comedy. Think The Unit, splattered with some random bits and pieces of Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother, and you have Chaos spread out in the orderly environs of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) quarters.

Enter Rick Martinez (Freddy Rodriguez), who has trained his whole life to be a CIA agent but meets the mother of all bad first days at work when he learns that his job has been eliminated due to budget cuts. This calls for a semi-angsty soliloquy from our cutesy, wide-eyed protagonist – predictably, about how he has given up his precious teenage years to pursue his dreams.

Sure enough, like any cunning American TV boss worth his salt, deputy director H.J. Higgins (Kurtwood Smith), the mastermind and head of the Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services (CHAOS – who knows where the H came from?) decides there is use for the young man after all and offers him a deal.

He is to walk out of the door as an unemployed civilian or do the country a "great service" by becoming a spy who spies on his co-workers at the secretive Office of Disruptive Services (ODS) department. Apparently, the department's job entails combating threats to national security amidst bureaucratic gridlock, rampant incompetence and political infighting.

His rogue colleagues, some of the most loquacious, fast-talking CIA agents you'll ever meet, include the very good looking and wise-as-all-hell leader, Michael Dorset (Eric Close), Scottish-born Billy Collins (James Murray), with a rowdy accent to boot, and Casey Malick (Tim Blake Nelson), the 12-year-CIA veteran they call a "human weapon". Already it sounds like a cowboy story.

Anyway, they figure out Martinez is a mole immediately, put him in an uncompromising position and then blackmails him to get back at Higgins while they go rescue a bunch of people in a desert – which in this case, is a hostage crisis in Sudan.

No, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to us either, but as Martinez, now a "double-mole" declares in a later episode: "We're the CIA, we can do anything" – even if it involves ingesting live scorpions or smuggling an entire family out of communist North Korea.

To add to good old American-style puffery, pseudo-witty banters along the lines of "Trust isn't earned, it's owned (and now we own you)" pervades the show throughout. Of course, this is where the bromance between Martinez and company blossoms and everybody loves a good underdog story with a happy ending …

Speaking of which, watch out for the super-hot intelligence officer Fay Carson (Carmen Ejogo), who has a penchant to speak in sexual innuendos. Surprise, surprise – she hits on Martinez in the pilot but we quickly learn that she was once married to Dorset. Err. Awkward.

The thing about Chaos is, the moment you start to grasp some semblance of congruence in its multi-layered storyline, it throws insome convoluting twists that completely debunk your judgement time and again. Which is fine except one does get tired from one's constant attempts to zig-zag along with the overambitious plot.

Then again, this is a spy drama and I thought director Tom Spezialy made good of the cleverly ironic premise of restoring order with disorder – as far as grit-free dramedies would allow themselves anyway.

Still, I thought Chaos lacks the believability it strives to deliver but compensates for it with its likable cast members. Rodriguez, who looks and sounds like a younger Michael J. Fox, is particularly endearing. If you're wondering where you've seen him before, he played Gio, the "sandwich guy" in Ugly Betty.

Chaos probably isn't for everybody, but as far as action-packed dramadies (or spi-medies) go, the boys of Chaos certainly make some jolly good company.

Chaos airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on AXN Beyond HD (Astro Channel 720).

Meet the Watersons

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 07:18 PM PDT


HE is 12 and utterly charming with an incurable optimism. He has an epic flair for misadventure and will try anything once. No matter what happens, Gumball always bounces back, even if the only thing he learns from his mistakes is how to make more of them.


Gumball's best friend, sweet and gentle Darwin, 10, used to be the family pet until he sprouted legs and joined Gumball's class at school. He still sleeps in a fishbowl, even though he's a little too big for it.


Anais, four, is extremely intelligent (much like Lisa Simpson). Don't underestimate this little pink bunny, she pretty much looks after Gumball, Darwin and Dad while mum's at work.

Mum – Nicole

The breadwinner and the person who sorts things out. She's the picture of a perfect mother (much like Marge Simpson), giving attention to Anais, treating Darwin like her own child and encouraging Gumball. Anyone who dares threaten the ones she loves, watch out!

Dad – Richard

Dad is a giant pink rabbit and stay-at-home dad who looks after the kids, while spending most of his time playing video games and watching daytime TV. He's a well-intentioned, supportive and devoted father but also just a little under-prepared for life.

Related Story:
Gumball rolls in

Gumball rolls in

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 07:17 PM PDT

They have problems like any ordinary family but this bunch is anything but normal. Welcome to The Amazing World Of Gumball.

TO mark its new look starting this month, Cartoon Network has kicked off The Amazing World Of Gumball, a mixed-media series that notably combines 2D and 3D animation in a live-action setting.

While it takes place in an amazingly imaginative world with nonsensical creatures, the show is fundamentally about a family (the Watersons), its joys, and the challenges and chaos it faces.

At the heart of the tale is Gumball, a blue cat with a giant head who goes through the trials and tribulations of any 12-year-old. But unlike a normal kid his age, his capers include being chased by a rampaging T-Rex, having a robot steal his identity and dressing as a cheerleader to impress the girl he fancies.

Dad is a 193cm (6'4") pink rabbit who stays at home while Mum works in the rainbow factory in the town of Elmore. Completing the extraordinary suburban family are Gumball's little sister, who's a genius bunny, and Darwin, a pet goldfish who becomes part of the family when he sprouts legs.

The Amazing World Of Gumball is the brainchild of 28-year-old French-born Ben Bocquelet, who worked on all aspects of production, including writing, storyboarding, animation and directing.

The show is the first British-produced full-length animated series, and has been aired on Cartoon Network in 166 countries. A second season has been greenlit.

Here's a peek at Gumball's world through the eyes of show creator Bocquelet and executive producer Daniel Lennard, also Cartoon Network Europe's vice-president of original series and development.

Where did you get the idea for The Amazing World Of Gumball?

Bocquelet: I got the idea for the show while working as a development artist at the Cartoon Network Development Studio based in London. Previously while working in commercials, I'd created a load of characters. These characters, with their variety of styles and formats, inspired the visual mash-up that became the final look for the show.

Why did you call it The Amazing World Of Gumball?

Bocquelet: The show has always been called Gumball. The name, in fact, came before the character. I wanted to call it something which reminds you of childhood, of something a kid might have in their pocket.

Is it true that the show is loosely based on your own childhood?

Bocquelet: Some aspects, yes! My sister is very clever, and like the character in the show, she's not to be messed with. We have always been very close, and still are. She's now a computer programmer. My dad is a real character and, yes, at some points he was a stay-at-home dad. My mum is incredibly strong and she really held our family together. We went through a lot but we always had a good time. We're a close-knit family and we found our strength in laughter.

Mixing 2D with 3D sounds ambitious. Why did you choose to do that?

Bocquelet: I had always wanted it to be 2D, 3D and live action. In my mind that's what makes the show distinctive. The Gorillaz videos were a big influence on me in animation school. I just loved the way they mixed their awesome designs with photos or films.

The technology now allows for this kind of approach on a series scale. It's really exciting to be part of this, and also that Cartoon Network committed to making the show in mixed media, despite the challenge of the process.

Tell us about the initial development process.

Bocquelet: I decided to base the show on the archetypal family sitcom, replacing normal human characters with nonsensical creatures. I wanted to treat the show like a sitcom and use the funny aspects of the characters and the freedom of animation to expand the humour and the stories into places that wouldn't be possible in live action.

Do you think The Amazing World Of Gumball will raise the bar for quality animation produced out of Europe?

Lennard: I think it raises the bar for a kids' cartoon in general, and what can actually be accomplished. It doesn't need to be dumbed down and overly simplistic. It doesn't need to look flat and move in a stiff manner.

A few industry people advised me that there are plenty of good reasons that a mixed media series on this scale hasn't been attempted before – it's technically difficult, it's expensive, it's unlikely to integrate effectively – but I'm thrilled we went ahead and produced a truly groundbreaking show.

Some of the characters are voiced by real kids, aren't they?

Bocquelet: Yes, Gumball was voiced by Logan Grove, Darwin by Kwesi Boakye and Anais by Kyla Rae Kowalewski. They each completely got their characters, were spontaneous and funny, had phenomenal range as actors, and also had fantastic comic timing. I wish their mums would sell them to me.

How big was the team who worked on the series?

Bocquelet: Pretty big, at some points there were at least 100 people working on it.

How long did it take to make the series?

Bocquelet: About two years, like a baby elephant (laughs).

Do you think this show will appeal to adults too?

Bocquelet: I really hope so. We tried to multi-layer jokes and stories as much as possible. I like the idea of a cartoon that is for everybody and not just for children. Kids are also much more sophisticated than we often give them credit for.

My wish is that people watch the show together as a family with the lights off, like we used to do with my parents when Looney Tunes was on.

Lennard: At its core, Gumball incorporates the fundamentals of what's important in kids' lives – family, school and friends. They're universal in pretty much every culture.

There is a lot to identify with in the show; it has lovable characters that you enjoy watching, with realistic relationships that just happen to be set in an amazingly imaginative world.

What shows did you watch as a kid?

Bocquelet: Film, animation, TV shows, I loved them all. The Simpsons was a big influence, and I'm also a big fan of South Park.

Lennard: Live-action shows like The A-Team, Happy Days, The Wonder Years, The Incredible Hulk and Monkey, a dubbed Japanese show. I'm not just saying this because I work for Turner (Entertainment International), but I loved a lot of the Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros cartoons such as those on Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Captain Caveman. I was also a fan of Battle Of The Planets.

The Amazing World Of Gumball premiered on Cartoon Network (Astro Channel 616) on Oct 1. It airs every Saturday at 9am.

Related Story:
Meet the Watersons


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Good vibes for Prugh on return to CordeValle

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:42 PM PDT

SAN MARTIN, California, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Twelve months after falling agonisingly short of claiming a first PGA Tour victory in his rookie season, Alex Prugh is back at the same venue with lofty hopes for this week's Open.

Prugh tied for second at a wet CordeValle Golf Club last year, just one stroke behind fellow American Rocco Mediate, after very nearly eagling the penultimate hole.

"I definitely have very good feelings coming into this week," the 27-year-old from Spokane, Washington, told Reuters on Tuesday after completing a lengthy practice session with his belly putter.

"Coming back here, I've had a lot of people remind me of the drive I hit on 17 which I almost made. Hopefully I can create fireworks like that again this week."

Prugh very nearly aced the par-four 17th in the final round, his ball landing a foot short of the cup before bouncing forward three feet beyond.

Though he tapped in for his eagle two, his playing partner Mediate remarkably also eagled the hole after laying up short of the green off the 17th tee.

Mediate asked Prugh to mark his ball on the green before he stunningly holed out from 116 yards for his fourth eagle of the week, effectively securing the title.

"I know the fans loved all that shot-making here at CordeValle last year and I loved it too," beamed Prugh, who won the 2009 New Zealand Open. "And it's always nice making a two on a par-four."

Prugh ended his maiden season on the PGA Tour with four top-10 finishes in 28 starts, and was nominated for rookie of the year.

Though his 2011 campaign has not been as successful, he was greatly encouraged by his tie for 29th at last week's Las Vegas Open where he recorded four successive sub-70 rounds.

"I had a nice solid tournament which always gets a little confidence going," said Prugh, who lies 167th in the money list and needs to break into the top 125 to secure full playing privileges for next year.

"I loved this course the first time I played it and I can't wait to get out there on Thursday. There are definitely some scoring holes coming in and fortunately I capitalised on those holes last year."

Asked to assess a 2011 season where a tie for 20th at the Sony Open in January has been his best finish, Prugh replied: "This year, it's been a lot slower. I've been working on a bunch of things but I feel like my game is good.

"There are still three tournaments left so I have plenty of time to get it together and keep my (PGA Tour) card."

Sapura captain out to fulfil role against Tenaga

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:15 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Sapura captain S. Kuhan (pic) hopes to lead by example against Tenaga Nasional in a Premier Division showdown of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) today.

The former international wants his team to get their penalty corner battery working in full steam. And Kuhan hopes to add to his dismal tally of two in five matches thus far.

"Our penalty corner conversion rate is very poor this season. To date, we have only scored six from the numerous chances that came our way. I hope we can get it right as we need to make every goal-scoring chance counts," said Kuhan, a penalty corner specialist.

"But it is not going to be easy to score against Tenaga goalkeeper S. Kumar as he was named the best goalkeeper in Asia last year. On top of that, they have a solid defence marshalled by national skipper Mohd Madzli (Ikmar)," added Kuhan.

Sapura are now placed second behind leaders Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) in the nine-team league. Both are on 15 points after five matches but KLHC, last year's double champions, have a better goal difference.

For Tenaga, they are placed third on 13 points after six matches.

Kuhan warned his team-mates not to take Tenaga for granted.

"Our matches against Tenaga have always been close. It is going to be the same tomorrow. We need to be on our toes," said the 35-year-old Kuhan, who has been Sapura's captain since 2000.

Last season Sapura played Tenaga four times – twice in the league and twice in the knockout stage. Sapura lost the first league match 2-3 but bounced back to win 2-0 in the second encounter. In the semi-finals, Sapura drew 2-2 in the first leg and then won 2-0 in the return leg.

For Tenaga, their hopes of landing the league title are as good as over after losing 1-2 to KLHC in their opening match. But Tenaga coach Lailin Abu Hassan still wants his team to get a positive result against Sapura.

"We finished second last season and we want to retain that spot this season," said Lailin.

While Sapura will face an uphill task against Tenaga, KLHC, powered by eight national players, are expected to collect full points against Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) today to retain their number one position in the standings.

New Zealand squad rally around understudy after Carter’s withdrawal

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:14 PM PDT

WHILE New Zealand reacted to the World Cup–ending injury to Dan Carter as something akin to a national disaster, the All Blacks rallied around his understudy Colin Slade.

The loss of star playmaker Carter has dominated the New Zealand news since he suffered a serious groin injury on Saturday with many questioning the ability of the novice Slade to fill his boots.

But All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith led the Slade fan club yesterday, saying the team's expectations were really high and that, despite Carter's absence, "we haven't altered the bar at all".

Smith said Slade had similar strengths to the ace pivot "so plans remain the same, expectations are exactly the same, belief of the squad is exactly the same. We don't see anything's changed."

In New Zealand, where rugby is treated almost like a national religion, there is desperation across the country for the team to lift the World Cup for the first time in 24 years.

Although the All Blacks are the most successful team in the history of the sport, the only time they have won the World Cup was when they hosted the inaugural tournament in 1987.

The 29–year–old Carter, an astute onfield general and veteran of 85 Tests, was seen as the rugby messiah who would change that, but Smith said the team had just as much faith in Slade, 23, who has a mere nine internationals behind him.

"He's got huge credibility in the squad and there's a lot of belief in him.

"In my experience, if you walk in the company of people who believe in you, you're going to achieve," he said ahead of New Zealand's quarter–final against Argentina in Auckland on Sunday.

All Blacks back–row Kieran Read said the team felt for Carter who was "a massive part" of the squad but had confidence in Slade to fill the demanding role.

"He's a pretty cool customer. He's got a level head on his shoulders and he's done an outstanding job last week (against Canada) and he'll handle it."

Although Aaron Cruden, who played six Tests for the All Blacks last year, has been added to the squad following Carter's withdrawal, Smith gave no guarantees he would get any game time.

Scrum–half Piri Weepu who has played a lot of Super rugby in the number 10 jersey is the likely backup to Slade, a role he has filled twice this year. – AFP


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Moody's slashes Italy credit rating

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 05:54 PM PDT

NEW YORK/ROME (Reuters) - Moody's lowered its rating on Italy's bonds by three notches on Tuesday, saying it saw a "material increase" in funding risks for euro zone countries with high levels of debt and warning that further downgrades were possible.

The agency downgraded Italy to A2 from Aa2, a lower rating than it holds on Estonia and on a par with Malta and kept a negative outlook on the rating.

The euro pared gains against the dollar and Japanese yen immediately following the announcement which comes after Moody's rival Standard and Poor's cut its rating on Italy by one notch to A/A-1 on September 19.

The cuts underline growing investor concern about the euro zone's third largest economy, which is now firmly at the center of the debt crisis and dependent on help from the European Central Bank to keep its borrowing costs under control.

"The negative outlook reflects ongoing economic and financial risks in Italy and in the euro area," Moody's said in a statement.

"The uncertain market environment and the risk of further deterioration in investor sentiment could constrain the country's access to the public debt markets," it said.

It added that Italy's rating could "transition to substantially lower rating levels" if there were long term uncertainty over the availability of external sources of liquidity support.

Italy's mix of chronically low growth, a public debt mountain amounting to 120 percent of gross domestic product and a struggling government coalition has caused mounting alarm in financial markets.

Moody's decision came as little surprise after the agency said on September 17 that it would finish a review for possible downgrade of its rating on Italy within a month.

But it highlights the growing vulnerability of the euro zone, which is already struggling to contain the crisis in the far smaller Greek economy and which would be overwhelmed by a crisis of a similar scale in Italy.

"It's not that unexpected but it doesn't help the situation at all," said Robbert Van Batenburg, Head of Equity Research at Louis Capital in New York.

"They have already traded as if there was somewhat of a downgrade in the works, so it will probably force Italian policymakers to embark on more austerity programs. It will put another fiscal strait-jacket on them."


Moody's said the likelihood of a default by Italy was "remote" but it said the overall shift in sentiment on the euro area funding market implied a greater vulnerability to a loss of market access at affordable rates.

Italy's relatively modest budget deficit, conservative financial system and high level of private savings had kept it on the sidelines of the euro zone crisis while countries like Greece and Ireland were sucked down.

"Italy is being punished not because its finances suddenly deteriorated, but because investors have become more sensitive to its long-standing weaknesses," said Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London.

He said markets appeared to be focusing on the weakened center-right government's lack of progress in stimulating the stagnant economy, which many analysts expect to stall or even slip into recession next year.

"The bond markets are more concerned about Italy's ability to grow than its commitment to reducing a fiscal deficit that is already one of the smallest in the euro zone," he said.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shrugged off the downgrade immediately, saying the Moody's announcement had been expected and the government was committed to its public finance target, which sees the budget being balanced by 2013.

The government last month pushed through a 60 billion euro austerity package -- bringing forward its original balanced budget target by one year -- in return for support for its battered government bonds from the ECB.

Berlusconi's center-right coalition has been deeply divided over policy and personal issues and further distracted by an array of scandals surrounding the prime minister.

Opposition leaders have called repeatedly for the government to resign over its handling of the economy and there is widespread speculation that Berlusconi could be forced out of office before his term expires in 2013.

Italy's borrowing costs have soared over the past three months and have only been kept under control by the ECB support but in recent weeks they have begin to climb back to potentially dangerous levels.

An auction of long term bonds last month saw yields on 10 year BTPs rise to 5.86 percent, their highest level since the introduction of the euro more than a decade ago.

The center-right government has been under heavy pressure over its handling of the escalating crisis and recently cut its growth forecasts through 2013.

It is now expecting the economy to expand by just 0.6 percent next year, down from a previous projection of 1.3 percent.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday that Moody's decision to cut Italy's bond ratings by three notches was expected and reiterated that the government was committed to its budget goals.

"Moody's choice was expected," Berlusconi said in a statement shortly after the ratings agency downgraded Italy's ratings to A2 with a negative outlook from Aa2.

"The Italian government is working with the maximum commitment to achieve its budget objectives," he said adding that its plans, including a target to balance the budget by 2013, had been welcomed and approved by the European Commission.

Economists see new recession increasingly likely

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 05:52 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chances of a new U.S. recession are rising rapidly as employment and housing remain depressed and Europe's debt crisis threatens to spill over, according to a number of prominent economists.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday described the recovery as "close to faltering," economists at Goldman Sachs said the United States is on "the edge" of recession, and forecasters at the Economic Cycle Research Institute said the country's economy was "tipping" into another downturn.

Bernanke delivered the warning in testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, saying the Fed -- the U.S. central bank -- is prepared to do more to support the recovery.

Economists at Goldman Sachs lowered their forecast for U.S. economic growth in the first quarter of next year to a paltry 0.5 percent, citing Europe's ongoing debt crisis as a possible catalyst for a U.S. slump.

"The European crisis threatens U.S. economic growth via tighter financial conditions, reduced credit availability and weaker growth of U.S. exports to the region," said Andrew Tilton, economist at Goldman Sachs. "This impact is likely to slow the U.S. economy to the edge of recession by early 2012."

On Friday, the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a business cycle forecasting firm, argued that the economy was already past the point of no return, as was the ability of policymakers to help.

"The most reliable forward-looking indicators are now collectively behaving as they did on the cusp of full-blown recessions, not 'soft landings'," the group said in a report.

For many Americans, the economy never felt as if it had recovered at all. Incomes have remained stagnant while a slump in housing that began more than five years ago shows no sign of letting up.

Growth in the U.S. economy, the world's largest, averaged less than 1 percent in the first half of the year, and the country's unemployment rate has hovered just above 9 percent for several months. Long-term joblessness is at a record, despite unprecedented monetary easing by the Federal Reserve.

The Conference Board, an industry group, recently argued the chances of recession, while still below 50-50, have risen in recent months.

"There is a growing risk that sustained weak confidence could put downward pressure on demand and business activity, causing the economy to potentially dip into recession," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the firm.

Billionaire Buffett not worried by BofA share fall

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 05:50 PM PDT

LAGUNA NIGUEL, California (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is not concerned by the sharp drop in Bank of America Corp shares in the last couple of days, despite his $5 billion investment in the company last month, he told Reuters on Tuesday.

"We agreed to hold it for at least five years, so what I'm thinking about is where Bank of America will be in five years, and nothing in the last 24 hours or 48 hours has changed my views on that," the Berkshire Hathaway Inc chief executive told Reuters on the sidelines of Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Women Summit.

Buffett made his bet on Bank of America's survival in late August (though it closed in early September). The deal gave him preferred shares with a hefty dividend and warrants that represent 6.5 percent of Bank of America stock.

Bank of America shares fell 5.2 percent to $5.24 in late-afternoon trading. The stock rose 33 percent in the five days after Buffett's investment was announced but since that peak has now fallen 37 percent.

Earlier on Tuesday, Buffett told the Fortune summit that many of Berkshire Hathaway's businesses would post record profits this year, including railroad unit Burlington Northern and energy business MidAmerican.

But he was much less optimistic about the company's housing-related businesses, including Shaw Carpet and Acme Brick.

Buffett told his long-time friend Carol Loomis, who interviewed him in front of an audience of America's most important female executives, that the performance of the housing-related units was as bad as it has ever been.

Berkshire's widely traded Class B shares rose 0.2 percent in late trading, one of the few gainers on a weak day in the broader market.


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Domestic violence amendment bill passed

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 07:42 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday passed the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 2011.

With the amendment, domestic violence is no longer restricted to physical violence but also mental, emotional and psychological abuse.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Senator Heng Seai Kie, when winding up debate on the bill, said the bill was also gender neutral and that husbands and wives would be treated equally in cases of spousal abuse.

However, she said wives were more often the victims as the statistics for last year showed that of the 3,173 cases of domestic violence only 69 victims were husbands.

The amendment also allows courts to issue orders to prevent third parties from physically abusing victims of domestic violence and also facilitate their (victims') protection.

Earlier, during the debate on the bill, women MPs hailed it as timely saying domestic violence was on the uptrend in the country.

Nancy Shukri (BN-Batang Sadong) said it was long overdue as some women were clueless about their rights.

"There have been cases where women accept being beaten by their husbands for leaving the house without permission because they think it is their fault," she said,adding that the government should also set up a national council to assist women and children who were victims of domestic violence.

Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam), when debating the bill, also urged the goverment to set up special courts only for women to which Heng when winding up debate said this was not feasible as it would be seen as discrimination. - Bernama

Minor earthquake hits Kundasang, Sabah

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 07:24 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: An earthquake, measuring 2.9 magnitude on the Richter scale, struck Kundasang in Sabah Tuesday night.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department, the 7.59pm quake was centered about 25km northwest of Ranau.

The department is currently monitoring developments and will issue updates on the situation. - Bernama

Probe confirms cops fired tear gas into Tung Shin, acted unethically

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:35 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A Health Ministry probe has confirmed that police had acted unethically and breached standard operating procedures (SOP) when dispersing Bersih demonstrators at Tung Shin hospital on July 9.

Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam said in a statement Tuesday that the police personnel involved would be referred to the police disciplinary committee.

"The investigation concluded that there was unethical action which went beyond the SOP of the Royal Malaysian Police when they acted against rally demonstrators who were wrongly using the hospital premise," said Mahmood.

The report released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday, among others, said:

a.Police used water cannons at demonstrators gathered at a multi-level parking area and at the main entrance of the Tung Shin hospital.

b.Police shot tear gas in the direction of Waz Lian at demonstrators gathered at a public car park outside the hospital premises. But the allegation that tear gas was shot into the hospital premises in not true.

c.Police lobbed smoke bombs' at demonstrators gathered at the parking lot of the Chinese Maternity Hospital, which is administratively separate from Tung Shin. In fact, the Chinese Maternity hospital had ceased operations from Sept 2006 for major renovations and is scheduled to start operating again only in December.

"As a result of this report, the Home Ministry will refer the list of police personnel involved to the Police Disciplinary Committee for consideration and further action.

"This shows that the Home Ministry takes work ethics seriously and will not compromise on taking disciplinary action on those who are found to have violated work guidelines," Mahmood said.

Related Stories:
Hisham will ask Cabinet to make public report on Bersih rally
Witnesses hesitant to come forward over Tung Shin tear-gas incident
Cops admit to firing tear gas and water near Tung Shin Hospital
Police set up two probes on claims by doctors of Tung Shin
Panel to probe Tung Shin incident
Chua: Hospital says it was not hit
No damage to Tung Shin Hospital


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Rowan Atkinson back as spoof spy Johnny English

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:06 AM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Rowan Atkinson is back as bumbling spy Johnny English in the sequel to his 2003 hit, but despite work on comic classics "Not the Nine O'Clock News" and "Blackadder," the comedian does not find filming much fun.

The 56-year-old, whose television series "Mr. Bean" also made it to the big screen, was on the red carpet in London at the weekend to promote spy spoof "Johnny English Reborn," which hits British theatres on Friday.

Elizabeth Hurley engaged to cricket star Shane Warne

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:04 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British model and actress Elizabeth Hurley is engaged to retired Australian cricketer Shane Warne, the couple confirmed via Twitter.

Hurley was photographed by British newspapers wearing an engagement ring Saturday at the Dunhill Links Championship golf tournament in Scotland, in which Warne was participating.

Out in the cold

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 04:25 AM PDT

Celebrities don't just fail to be nominated for awards – they get snubbed.

EVEN a veteran like Jeff Bridges was overcome with emotion over his first Oscar win, for best actor in the 2009 movie Crazy Heart, showing the importance a performer attaches to the recognition from the industry for his work.

But apart from the prestige, awards such as an Oscar or an Emmy also open doors for work for most winners as well as a rise in acting fee, adding to their marketability. The award ceremony itself is often a money-spinner thanks to its large audience base as fans get to see all the movers and shakers under one roof.

Each award ceremony brings with it reams of newsprint and plenty of airtime, but other than the focus on the wins and the losses, the coverage often zooms in on those who should have made it but didn't, and the most over-used word in articles of this genre is "snub".

Reading such stories invariably brings to mind this short but memorable anecdote, told years ago by a friend in Chinese, that goes something like this: A man was giving a party at the weekend for his new colleagues, but not everyone he invited turned up. Thinking of the attractive executive who wasn't among the guests who came, he sighed and lamented to those who were there: "Those who should have come didn't turn up."

Feeling most offended by his seemingly less-than-welcoming words, half of those in his audience decided to leave. The host, watching the more lively members from his office walk out, then blurted out: "Those who shouldn't have left are gone."

With that, the remaining half of his guests also upped and left, leaving the poor man with a ton of food and drinks, no one to play the music to, and a whole lot of deflated egos to assuage come Monday.

Calling the failure to be nominated for awards a snub to a celebrity is akin to saying that the ones who do get the nod are not quite worthy or that those who should have been in the shortlist are not.

Take the recently-concluded 63rd edition of the Emmy Awards, an annual event that honours the best in television. Or does it? Writers who do not share this opinion expressed their indignation when the nominations came out on the morning of July 14. What ... no Lea Michele and Matthew Morrisson in the list? Isn't it time for Anna Paquin to be rewarded for her brilliant turn as a telepathic barmaid in True Blood?

And who left out the excellent cast members that lifted Fringe, The Walking Dead, The Killing and Sons Of Anarchy to both popular and critical acclaim? Don't members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences actually have to watch television before they make their nominations?

It makes for good copy, and drama, if nothing else. Those who make the list are hardly going to cock a snook at an Emmy nomination – it can be quite painful to read about or listen to their claims of modesty. It will be too soon if I have to hear another actor claim to be a winner already just by being nominated or by being in the august company of fellow nominees with greater star power.

So the quotable quotes often come from those who fail to be nominated, aided and abetted by writers who, for the sake of spicing up the coverage of the repetitive event, trumpet the injustice of it all, making it oh-so-easy for the inflated egos to say their piece.

The Academy Awards, which celebrates the achievements of those in film, is also a hotbed of missed chances and institutional prejudice, if one is to believe the hype surrounding the who-it-should-have-been each year on nomination day.

The man of the moment in the annals of getting snubbed is supposed to be Chris Nolan, whose good work over the years has resulted in zero nomination for the man as a director.

The mind-bending Memento, the Batman franchise reboot and his latest, the dream blockbuster Inception, have all received critical acclaim as well as achieved box-office success, yet he is nowhere to be found when it comes to honouring the best in directing in the years his films are eligible for the awards.

Nolan, the story continues, replaces Martin Scorsese as the new poster boy for snubs. Scorsese's first Oscar-worthy film was way back in 1976, with Taxi Driver, and he had even earned several nominations over the years, but never won, until 30 years later in 2006, with The Departed, a remake of the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs.

While Scorsese and Nolan are no doubt good directors, I believe it is going too far to say that they have been snubbed. They make good movies, but so do many other directors. The King's Speech, Inception's contemporary which won Tom Hooper the Academy Award for Best Director, is no slouch in the good-movie department.

I would also argue that entertainment writers who described Harry Potter lead Daniel Radcliffe's exclusion from the nominee list for a Tony Award for Best Actor in his successful musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying as a snub were wrong. Radcliffe was up against stage actors who have been honing their craft for years.

A snub, to me, would be when the late Marlon Brando refused to accept his Oscar for Best Actor for The Godfather in 1973, dispatching American Indian Sacheen Littlefeather, clothed in traditional dress, to take the podium on his behalf to reject the Oscar in protest against the negative depiction of American Indians on screen.

Snub stories appeal especially to fans who think the world of their idols and cannot understand why others can't see their stars the way they do. There is also an element of the tendency for people to support the underdog, although it beats me how people earning millions would fall under such a category.

It ought to be a crime to stroke the egos of un-nominated celebrities by making them believe that they failed to garner any nominations because they were snubbed and not because in a crowded field, some would just have to lose.

In this column, writer Hau Boon Lai ponders the lives, loves and liberties of celebrities.


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Work to begin on Station 6

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:26 AM PDT

Part of Jalan SS18/6 in Subang Jaya will be closed for construction work on Station 6 of the Kelana Jaya LRT extension project starting from Oct 10.

The road closure will affect the stretch between Jalan SS18/4f and Jalan SS 18/4g.

Preliminary test piling work is expected to take 62 days.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh said the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) would take precautions before work started to the ensure the safety of motorists and residents.

"Houses close to the site will be monitored by MPSJ and subsequently any damage caused due to the construction will be covered," she told reporters at the site on Sunday.

Also present were MPSJ and Prasarana officers.

"Prasarana will also put up banners announcing the road closure and alternative routes," Yeoh said.

MPSJ engineering department deputy director Mohd Ariffuddin Ismail said the tests would be conducted from Monday to Saturday from 8am to 5pm.

Prasarana's main contractor Trans Resources Corporation senior project manager Zabri Ahmad Shah, who will be overseeing the tests, said noise and light vibrations should be expected only during the first week.

"Only the boring period, which will take several days, will be noisy. After that is the concreting and curing period before the load test.

"The next road closure for guideway test piling work will be at the end of Jalan Jengka near the Kesas Highway and the junction of Jalan SS 14/7g and Jalan SS 18/1a.

Do not double park in Brickfields, says Nong Chik

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:25 AM PDT

FEDERAL Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin has advised the public shopping in Brickfields for the Deepavali festival to be courteous and not double park.

Nong Chik said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) officers would carry out enforcement to ensure a smooth traffic flow in the township during the festive period.

He advised the people to be patient and bear with the congestion for the time being.

"The bazaars are an opportunity for the low-income earners to make a living.

"The festive seasons are the best time for the poor to do business so please be patient with them,'' he said.

Nong Chik also warned traders doing business in the area not to block the tactile blocks which had been put in place to guide the blind.

He said this after presenting 80 traders with licences to conduct business in Brickfields for the Deepavali festival.

This year, 641 traders were given licences to conduct business in Kuala Lumpur.

The Deepavali bazaars will operate from now until Oct 25, from 11am to 11pm.

The bazaar locations are in Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Lebuh Ampang, Brickfields, Sentul, Masjid India and Jalan Ipoh.


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Malaysia and Hong Kong are men’s and women’s champions

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:04 PM PDT

MALACCA: Malaysia and Hong Kong shared the glory spoils emerging as men's and women's champions in the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (ASUM) Open Waterpolo Championships held at the Hang Jebat Aquatic Centre in Krubong, Malacca recently.

To add more cheer, Hong Kong garnered the silver in the men's competition while the national side was second best in the women's division.

Hosts Malacca, also stood proudly in the medal standings picking up a bronze in the men's division.

In all ten teams — Penang, Malacca, Sabah, Terengganu, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, Negeri Sembilan, the Armed Forces and the national side, heading for November's Jakarta-Palembang SEA Games were in the men's competitive fray.

The national side, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur made it a three-team affair in the women's division.

In the men's session and following the preliminary round group fixtures, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Malacca and Indonesia qualified for the knockout semifinal stage. Hong Kong maintained an unbeaten streak in Group A beating Terengganu 21-4, Penang 7-4, Sabah 21-6 and Malacca 7-5. Malacca with a three wins, one loss was second in the group.

Malaysia also kept up an impressive unbeaten run in Group B beating Kuala Lumpur 25-1, Indonesia 17-8, Negeri Sembilan 23-5 and the Armed Forces 17-2. Indonesia occupied second spot in the group with three wins posted over Negeri Sembilan (14-5), Kuala Lumpur (20-3) and Armed Forces (17-6).

In the semifinals, Malaysia and Hong Kong were in a class of their own ousting Malacca and Indonesia 20-2 and 11-6 respectively. Hitting the goal trail for Malaysia were Rodney Tan and Fam Jia Yi (four goals each), Fam Jia Shin and Tan Hun Sen (three goals a peice), Daryl Khoo (two) with Kelvin Lim, Timothy Heng, Thomas Lee and Sung Jun Hao netting a goal each. Malacca replied though Anderson Wong and Gan Yu Jie.

In the other play-off to decide a shot into the final, Hong Kong warded off determined and gritty Indonesia to prevail 11-6 victors. To Tou was tops on the island state's scoring chart with six goals while Lau Ching Ming netted thrice with Cheng Hoi Yeung and Ku Yat Wa each netting a goal to secure the hard fought win. Indonesia replied through Reza Desda and Walad Wirawan (two each) with Hendry Jaya and Ismayana Taufan registering a goal each.

In the final, Malaysia pulled out all stops to inflict a thumping 19-8 victory over Hong Kong. Thomas Lee and Goh Kah Yi impressed with five and four goals respectively while Tan Hun Sen, Sung Jun Hao and Daryl Khoo each netting twice. Others who inflated the national side's score were Rodney Tan, Kelvin Lim, Fam Jia Shin and Timothy Heng with a goal each.

Hong Kong down 3-6 at the halfway mark got their goals through Ku Yat Wa (four), To Tou (two) with Koo Yu Fat and Fung Kong Ching scoring once each.

In the women's division adopting a one round league with the top two finishers squaring off in the gold medal play-off, Hong Kong stamped their superiority from the onset. They beat Kuala Lumpur 22-3 and Malaysia 5-3 while the national side downed the city outfit 24-2.

In the final tussle, Hong Kong again proved best notching a 9-6 win over Malaysia. Captain Joanne Shum Ying was the toast for the visitors netting five goals with Ng Chan Yu (two goals) and one each from Chan Sze Ting and Wu Ka Wing rounded up Hong Kong's tally. Malaysia replid through Chan Su Jie (two) and one each from Shirleen Khoo, Woo Yi Wen, Aileen Lim and Low Jia Yee.

Malacca's Fam Kow Jan who handled both the national men's and women's in the recent invitational meet and currently supervising centralised training in preparation for the SEA Games, disclosed that both sides are shaping up well and are now displaying more cohesion in both the attack and defence departments.

"As for the SEA Games,it is going to be very tough even to secure a bronze medal in either division. We have young teams on hand to carry the challenge for the upcoming November Games. The games will spell more of an exposure and gaining of regional competitive experience.

Still, we are not throwing in the towel. We aim to give fancied Thailand, Singapore and hosts Indonesia currently in training in China, a run for their money," he added.

Protecting Jalan Sultan

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:01 PM PDT

THE Land Acquisition Act 1960 and National Land Code 1965, specifically the amendment made in 1990, are two laws brought into view in the Jalan Sultan debate.

Lawyer and former member of the Bar Council Roger Tan, who is also a columnist with The Star, explained the relevance of these laws in this context.

He first highlighted an individual's constitutional right to property as enshrined in Article 13 of the Federal Constitution. The Article reads: "No person shall be deprived of property save in accordance with law" and "No law shall provide for the compulsory acquisition or use of property without adequate compensation".

He noted that even Singapore does not have a similar provision in its constitution.

The word 'law' in Article 13(1) can only mean an enacted law. This law is the Land Acquisition Act 1960 (LAA) which is in force since Oct 13, 1960.

Circumstances that allow land to be compulsorily acquired are:

Section 3(1) of LAA states that the state authority may acquire any land which is needed -

(a) For any public purpose; or

(b) By any person or corporation for any purpose which in the opinion of the state authority is beneficial to the economic development of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the public generally or any class of the public; or

(c) For the purpose of mining or for residential, agricultural, commercial or industrial purposes.

"'Public purpose' in 3(1)(a) is not defined in the LAA. Broadly speaking, it would include the purpose in which it relates to the general interest of the society as opposed to the particular interest of an individual or corporation," he said,

"We should note that if the acquisition is meant to build a commercial centre to help finance the construction cost of the MRT, then it becomes an issue whether the purpose of the acquisition falls within 3(1)(a).

"It is near impossible to challenge the validity of a land acquisition," he said, adding that any challenge is only limited to the determination of the measurement of the land; the amount of compensation; the persons to whom it is payable and the apportionment of the compensation.

He also noted that since 1960, there have been few cases challenging the land acquisition's legality and validity on the ground that the acquiring authority had acted mala fide, that is, in bad faith but almost all had failed.

If the acquisition is made under 3(1)(b), the acquiring authority will need to follow the procedures detailed by 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E and 3F which were incorporated into the LAA in 1992.

He explained that the main issue of acquiring under 3(1)(b) would be whether a development approval was granted and whether the acquisition was for public utility.

He highlighted two other important sections in LAA, they are:

Section 8(3) says that a land acquisition declaration shall be conclusive evidence. In other words, it is difficult to challenge the purpose for the intended acquisition, and;

Section 68A states even if the subsequent use of or dealing with the land might be different from the purpose which was originally stated when the land was acquired, the acquisition is still legal. Such a provision acts as an ouster clause, which means the acquisition cannot be invalidated.

The National Land Code (NLC) was brought into light by some parties to highlight the possibility of acquiring only the stratum (underground land) while not affecting the surface properties.

Tan said Section 44 (1)(a) of the NLC endowed upon landowners the exclusive use of (air) space above and below the land.

However, ever since Part Five (A) of NLC was inserted by the NLC (Amendment) Act 1990 on 23 February 1990, separate ownership of surface land and stratum land has been made possible.

"I don't think it is correct to state that Part Five (A) NLC was inserted to allow for the acquisition of underground land without affecting surface property, which is by acquiring only the stratum. That is only possible if there are already two separate and independent surface and stratum titles issued over an alienated land," he said.

He added that Part Five (A) only applied to the following situations:

(a) the state authority can alienate any underground land which is state land to anyone (see Section 92C); and

(b) because of Section 44(1)(a), the State can only alienate the acquisition of pre-war buildings underground land below the alienated land to the registered proprietor of the alienated land on the latter's application and no one else (see Section 92D).

"Hence, if no individual or separate stratum titles have been issued to the registered proprietor of the alienated land, no separate acquisition of the underground land will be possible and any acquisition will then involve the entire alienated land," he concluded.

Only the state authority, in this case the Federal Government, has the power to 'alienate', and only state land is capable of being 'alienated'. Therefore, if SPAD wants to give any interest over the acquired land later alienated to them, it will only be by way of a lease of between 30 and 99 years. Naturally, this will not appeal to the landowners if they now hold the freehold titles, he said.

There are three other alternatives, nevertheless. One way is for the land acquisition to proceed and the other, the current landowners to surrender their properties to the state authority. By doing either of these, the state authority can then simultaneously alienate the surface and stratum land to the current landowners and SPAD respectively.

The third method is for the current landowners to apply for separate stratum titles and lease them to SPAD but this may be subject to any express terms such as any prohibition against leasing.

Tan opined that the third method would not be attractive to SPAD as it might not be bankable to the MRT's financiers, and while the second method was less time consuming than the first, the state authority was technically not required to pay compensation to the landowners when the land was surrendered to them.

"But this can be done by way of a separate agreement between SPAD and the landowners for the former to pay compensation to the latter upon surrender.

"The subsequent payment can also be secured by way of a bankers' guarantee," he said, highlighting also the higher premium facing landowners when the land is alienated back to them as MRT would boost the value.

Tan also noted that the second and third methods could not be exercised if the land was under any encumbrances unless with the prior consent of such encumbrancers.

The state authority's assurance that the surface land will be alienated to them is pivotal to the landowners, he noted.

He said under Section 78(3) of NLC, alienation took effect only upon registration of the titles into the landowners' names, therefore, even a letter of approval to alienate is not binding upon the state authority and will not stand in a court of law.

"However, administratively, the problem can only be ameliorated but not guaranteed by arranging the time for surrender and alienation not to lapse for too long from one to the other or if it is possible, simultaneously," he added.

In terms of legislative protection for historical building, Tan agreed that the National Heritage Act (Act 645) that came into effect on March 1, 2006, has the power to do so.

It is "an Act to provide for the conservation and preservation of national heritage, natural heritage, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, underwater cultural heritage, treasure trove and for related matters".

Section 70 states that if a site has been declared national heritage, there shall be no change of ownership except by inheritance or sale with the prior approval of the commissioner.

No person shall without the approval of the commissioner demolish, alter or to deal with the national heritage except in case of urgent necessity for the safety of persons or property.

"As a conclusion, the National Heritage Act provides extensive preservation and conservation for heritage sites, however, the area in question, that is the Chinatown, is not designated as 'Heritage Site' under the Act as to date and therefore the protection cannot be extended there," he said.

But despite the above, he highlighted, neither Act 645 nor the LAA states that the state authority is not permitted to acquire such properties.

"Perhaps employing political and social means will be more effective in stopping any such intended acquisition," he added.

Nervous wreck turns champ in speech contest

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:00 PM PDT

BATU PAHAT: Form Four student Nur Amalina Mohd Latif was so nervous during a public speaking event that just before her turn, she left the hall to be all by herself and cry.

However, after a few minutes, the 16-year-old composed herself and managed to get onto the stage before delivering her speech entitled 1Malaysia Bersih dan Indah in Bahasa Malaysia.

Her efforts proved to be fruitful as she walked away as champion in the state level Bahasa Malaysia public-speaking competition, which was part of the Mini Tourism Carnival for Schools programme at Minyak Beku here recently.

"When I heard the other participants' speeches before mine, I got really anxious.

"After gathering myself up I proceeded on stage and I felt my confidence grow as I began delivering my seven-minute speech," related Nur Amalina, adding that she was satisfied with her performance.

Driven by her ambition to be a lawyer, the SMK Bandar Seri Alam student took up the challenge to participate in the competition after her classmate turned down the opportunity offered by their teacher.

"My father urged me to take part in order to develop confidence and language proficiency, which are qualities needed in a lawyer," she said.

Nur Amalina beat 20 other students from various schools statewide to bag RM500 and a trophy for her speech.

Meanwhile, State Tourism and Domestic Trade committee chairman Hoo Seong Chang, who attended the event's closing ceremony, said that the programme was to encourage students to "Think Tourism, Act Tourism".

"This is to prepare our future leaders and educate them on tourism knowledge and also expose them to the various work opportunities available in the tourism sectors," he said.


The Star Online

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