Rabu, 5 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Struggling couturiers get help

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 05:05 PM PDT

Struggling fashion designers get help from an industry expert in a new TV series.

ARMED with his little black book of industry insiders and fashion powerhouse friends, Joe Zee is the man you'd want as an ally. Especially if you're a fashion designer who wants a shot at success.

Zee, 42, is an American stylist and creative director of Elle magazine. He appears on Li's new TV series All On The Line in which he dispenses advice to struggling couturiers.

Renowned as one of fashion's friendliest ambassadors, Zee – who was a recurring character on reality series The City – has earned an impressive number of accolades.

He has been described in a New York Times profile as a leader in the mass market and digital transformation of fashion: "A chatty and approachable ambassador of fashion who has aggressively thrust himself in front of hoi polloi using Twitter, blogs and – most visibly – television."

With an illustrious list of celebrity clients and trendsetting transformations – he is responsible for Justin Timberlake's makeover which elevated him from an awkward boyband member to a sharp-suited, sexy solo star, prompting the Frank Sinatra-style comeback – and high-profile collaborations with photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Mario Testino, Zee is regarded as one of the world's top stylists.

Zee was born in Hong Kong but his family moved to Toronto when he was just a year old. He stepped into the world of fashion in 1990 at the age of 22 and ended up moving to New York to enrol at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Zee wears several hats at once – equal parts style guru, therapist, fabric sourcer, counsellor and business manager – to provide a practical, market-savvy perspective that both allows the designer's aesthetic ambitions to flourish while ringing up the revenue.

In All On The Line, Zee helps talented designers rescue their businesses from the brink of bankruptcy, completely redesign their lacklustre lines and present their revitalised collections to leading retailers.

But as expected, when passionate personalities go head-to-head with real risks at stake, fashion bootcamp can get fiery. Real life also comes with the caveat of no guaranteed happy endings – if designers abandon Zee's advice and fail to adopt an approach that combines the best of art and commerce, there can be rocky results.

Can Zee help designers create lines that buyers will love? Can he show them how to sell their creations without selling out?

"Some designers completely made it, but some completely lost it," says Zee. "And I can tell you: you need a thick skin to survive. Yes, I was expecting drama – but I wasn't expecting the drama I saw!"

In an e-mail interview, Zee touches on his nice-guy reputation and reveals juicy titbits about the show.

You've been touted as "fashion's friendliest ambassador", proving that nice guys don't finish last! How do you manage to dole out honest fashion advice while preserving the peace with the designers on your show? And where do you get the patience to deal with flare-ups from the very people you're trying to help?

I think my goal with doing All On The Line has always been to be "me". I have never tried to play a character but really bring out the best in every designer. I won't appease you just to be kind. I think that does a disservice. These designers need me to be as honest as possible and if I'm tough, it's because I know their potential is far greater than what they're showing me.

On an episode of All On The Line, you told Kara Janx (a previous contestant on Project Runway) that "this isn't Project Runway." How different is All On The Line from other designer-focused shows?

All On The Line is not a competition or game show. It's about real life, real businesses, real problems. These designers have invested everything they have in order to make their businesses work and somewhere along the way, they've hit a roadblock. I do my best to help them overcome that by working with them on their problems and their product, and hopefully by the end, I can have a major retailer buy their collection. There is no grand prize. The ultimate prize is the success of their business.

They say that one should never believe their own hype. What are some of the warning signs of a failing line, and how do designers prevent a further downward spiral?

I think first of all, every designer needs to have a look at their collection from an objective point of view. You can't live in the bubble of what you do and not be conscious of everything else happening in the world of fashion. Are you relevant? Does your collection make sense in the grand scheme of things? I think that's what I provide for many of the designers – that objective third party point of view.

How do designers truly access their level of success, from both a commercial and creative perspective?

I think that ultimate success for any designer is financial stability and being able to sell their collection. If a major store chooses to buy your collection, it's real validation that what you are doing is relevant.

What advice would you give to designers who want to create stylish, sellable clothing without selling out on their design aesthetic?

Always have a strong point of view. Being commercial doesn't mean being boring, and you can see how it worked for one but not the other. Many times designers think "commercial" is a dirty word but how dirty can success be?

You juggle many roles – creative director at Elle, a helping hand for struggling designers, fashion's man about town. What drives your distinct dedication to the fashion industry and all things stylish?

I love the fashion industry because it changes constantly and that's what keeps it exciting. What other industry can say that?

If you could feature any Asian designers from these countries on your show, whose brands would you like to bring to the next level?

I am not very familiar with too many Asian brands but I would love to work with them on All On The Line! Maybe we will do an Asia special!

Your philosophy isn't just about the clothes on the shoot, but how all the elements – the hair and make-up, the model, the idea – have to come together to make it great. Can you tell us the basic cornerstones that everyone needs to pull together their own great looks?

I think style is about a total package. It isn't just about clothes. Clothes should be part of the canvas of style, with hair, make-up and attitude, and personality should play a major role. Fashion and personal style should tell a story.

Your first fashion job started with a Club Monaco store in Toronto. What tips do you have for anyone trying to break into the fast, furious, and sometimes fickle, fashion scene?

Perseverence. I think I have been very lucky with all my opportunities but at the same time, I have worked very hard. Stick with it, even when it seems difficult, in order to tap into your best potential.

You've worked with an endless list of luminaries – Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier, to name a few. Do you have any favourites that you'd love to collaborate with more in the future?

I love working with every photographer because they bring completely different points of view to what we are doing. My first job was with Richard Avedon which is beyond incredible, but Carter Smith is someone who's been a close friend for the past 20 years and we've collaborated in so many different ways.

A typical day sees you doing a million things all at once. What do you do in your spare time to unwind and relax?

I love pop culture. So I love reading, going to the movies, even checking out the latest art exhibitions. I'm also a big fan of dance and you can often find me in dance classes, and finally, I love cooking big dinner parties for all my friends.

You are very social media-friendly. What is the most memorable thing that a fan or follower has ever tweeted you?

A sweet girl from Georgia that I met on the street in Savannah, wrote me a rap and recorded it and put it up on YouTube. And she's just 14!

You're always sharply suited. Do you have any personal style icons?

Personal style icons for me are people that are stylish, break boundaries, dictate ideas but without trying, like John F. Kennedy Jr, Kurt Cobain or even Kate Middleton.

What are your thoughts on the Asian style scene? Do you read any street style blogs or fashion chronicles from the region?

I am obsessed with the Asian style scene. I was in Asia a few times last year, and I love Tokyo and Hong Kong, where the styles are so metropolitan but mixed up in a very unique way.

If you could style any famous figure from the past, who would it be and why?

I would love to style Marilyn Monroe. How amazing would that be to lay claim to that? Plus she is such an inspiration for so many of my style images.

As a pop culture junkie, who do you feel most defines the current look of today? Is there any particular fashionista whose different looks you look forward to every time?

Kate Moss has been incredibly definitive of today's times. She's always unpredictable but incredibly chic in everything she wears – from her own wedding dress to something at the Glastonbury Music Festival.

With the Asian region possessing some of the most exciting style scenes today – such as Jakarta's vibrancy – would you consider expanding the reach of All On The Line to include revamping designer lines from the region?

I would Love to do All On The Line: Hong Kong! I was born there and it would be great to go back and work with design talent. Let's make it happen!

All On The Line premieres this Sunday at 10pm on Li (Astro B.yond channel 706).

‘Saladin’ up for Emmy

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 04:09 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Animated action-adventure Saladin has put Malaysia on the world map with its nomination for an award at the 39th International Emmy Awards.

Saladin is co-produced by the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), caretaker of the country's MSC Malaysia initiative, and Qatar's Al-Jazeera Children's Channel (JCC).

The nominations were announced on Monday at the MIPCOM content event in Cannes.

Th prestigious Emmys, to be held in New York on Nov 21, celebrates excellence in TV programmes created outside of the United States.

Saladin's nomination is for the Children & Young People category.

It will be up against TV programmes Race Against Time (Germany), What Is Your Dream (Chile) and Dance Academy (Australia).

The series is about the adventures of a teenager Saladin in the days before he became one of Islam's most legendary figures.

He is famous for recapturing Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

The 13-part series, in English with Bahasa Malaysia subtitles, was aired on TV1 last year.

An Arabic version of Saladin has been screened in Bahrain, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates via the JCC.

MDeC chief executive director Datuk Badlisham Ghazali said the nomination served as a feather in the cap to the outstanding creativity and hard work by the production team.

"When we launched Saladin in 2010, it was a particularly bold move as it was the first Malaysian production of its kind to be aired in over 20 countries.

"A year later, with an International Emmy nomination under its belt, Saladin has become a shining beacon of Malaysian skill, talent and technology in creative multimedia.

"Over 95% of its production crew – from actors, animators, designers to engineers – are Malaysians," he said in a press release.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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Jobs death prompts grief at Apple stores in U.S., elsewhere

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 09:46 PM PDT

CUPERTINO, Calif./NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple fans from New York to Australia gathered to mourn the death of Steve Jobs, leaving Apple products, bouquets and heartfelt messages in tribute to the man who transformed the computing, music and phone industries.

Surina Shukri of New York places a candle in front of the upper west side Apple Store in New York October 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Flags outside Apple's headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California flew at half mast as a group of mourners flocked to a nearby lawn. Distraught Apple fans left flowers in tribute and a man played the bagpipes.

"In my mind there is no difference between him and a Pasteur," said Chitra Abdolzadeh, a healthcare worker in Cupertino, in reference to the legendary French chemist Louis Pasteur.

Ben Chess, a 29-year-old engineer at the Internet company Yelp and a former Apple intern, drove to the Apple HQ from San Francisco immediately after work. He laid a bunch of flowers. "It's the right thing to do," he said.

At the downtown San Francisco Apple store, people held up pictures of Jobs on their iPads and taped greeting cards and post-it notes to the store window saying "thank you Steve" and "I hate cancer." There were also candles and red apples left outside.

One Apple store employee in San Francisco, Cory Moll described Jobs as a personal inspiration. "We're lucky to have had him for as long as we did," said Moll, holding an iPad displaying a quote in memorial to Jobs.

"What he's done for us as a culture, it resonates uniquely in every person," Moll said. "Even if they never use an Apple product, the impact they have had is so far-reaching."

Across the country in New York City, a makeshift memorial made out of fliers featuring pictures of Jobs was established outside a 24-hour Apple store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, with mourners snapping photos of it on their iPhones.

"We will miss you Steve, RIP. Thank you for your vision," read one flier.

Business professor and influential business thinker Gary Hamel said he left for the store as soon as he found out about Jobs' death.

"As soon as I heard the news, I came out to this Apple store to pay my respects," he said, clutching the power cord he just bought inside. "I saw tears in some people's eyes."

Outside another Apple store in New York's SoHo neighborhood, two men laid candles, bouquets of flowers, an apple and, for a while, placed an iPod Touch on the ground.

At the Apple Store on Boylston Street in Boston, Angelos Nicolaou, a student at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, said that Jobs "inspired us to be rebels and challenge the status quo. I hope there will be more leaders like him. It seems like the world is running out of them."

In Sydney, Australia, lawyer George Raptis, who was five years old when he first used a Macintosh computer, said of Jobs: "He's changed the face of computing. There will only ever be one Steve Jobs."

Some of the people who flocked to their local Apple stores when they heard of Jobs' passing were already thinking of Apple's future without its co-founder. The company named Tim Cook as its new CEO at the end of August when Jobs stepped down.

"They had a lot of time to prepare for the transition ... Tim Cook will continue his legacy," said Guilherme Ferraz, 44, a Brazilian businessman who was standing in front of a Manhattan Apple Store.

Keenen Thompson, a 21-year-old was in front of the Apple store in New York and said he would not leave until Apple's new iPhone 4S, unveiled earlier this week, comes out.

The former Apple store employee said he wants to be the first one to get the new iPhone on October 14.

"I wish the company well and I feel confident with Tim Cook," he said, glancing at the MacBook Air laptop he had set up next to him.

(Reporting by Liana Baker, Andrew Longstreth, Nadia Damouni and Soyoung Kim in New York, Amy Pyett in Sydney, Jim Finkle in Boston, Sarah McBride, Noel Randewich, Jim Christie in Cupertino, California; Editing by Peter Lauria and Martin Howell)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Ridiculed crystal work wins Nobel for Israeli

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 09:15 PM PDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - An Israeli scientist who suffered years of ridicule and even lost a research post for claiming to have found an entirely new class of solid material was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals.

Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman poses for a photo in a lab at the Technion Institute of Technology in the northern city of Haifa October 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Three decades after Daniel Shechtman looked with an electron microscope at a metal alloy and saw a pattern familiar in Islamic art but then unknown at a molecular level, those non-stick, rust-free, heat-resistant quasicrystals are finding their way into tools from LEDs to engines and frying pans.

Shechtman, 70, from Israel's Technion institute in Haifa, was working in the United States in 1982 when he observed atoms in a crystal he had made form a five-sided pattern that did not repeat itself, defying received wisdom that they must create repetitious patterns, like triangles, squares or hexagons.

"People just laughed at me," Shechtman recalled in an interview this year with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noting how Linus Pauling, a colossus of science and double Nobel laureate, mounted a frightening "crusade" against him, saying: "There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists."

After telling Shechtman to go back and read the textbook, the head of his research group asked him to leave for "bringing disgrace" on the team. "I felt rejected," Shechtman remembered.

"His discovery was extremely controversial," said the Nobel Committee at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which granted him the 10-million crown ($1.5-million) award.

"Daniel Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science ... His battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter.

"In quasicrystals, we find the fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms: regular patterns that never repeat themselves."


On Wednesday, Shechtman said he was "excited" but at pains to praise fellow scientists, many of whom once doubted him.

Nancy Jackson, the president of the American Chemical Society (ACS), called it "a great work of discovery".

Scientists had previously thought solid matter had only two states -- crystalline, like diamonds, where atoms are arranged in rigid rows, and amorphous, like metals, with no particular order. Quasicrystalline matter offers a third possibility and opens the door to new kinds of materials for use in industry.

Sometimes referred to as Shechtmanite in the discoverer's honour, hundreds of quasicrystals have been synthesised in laboratories. Two years ago, scientists reported the first naturally occurring find of quasicrystals in eastern Russia.

David Phillips, president of Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry, called them "quite beautiful". Interlocking arrays of stars, circles and floral shapes are typical.

"You can normally explain in simple terms where in a crystal each atom sits - they are very symmetrical," Phillips said. "With quasicrystals, that symmetry is broken: there are regular patterns in the structure, but never repeating."

An intriguing feature of such patterns, also found in Arab mosaics, is that the mathematical constant known as the Greek letter tau, or the "golden ratio", occurs over and over again. Underlying it is a sequence worked out by Fibonacci in the 13th century, where each number is the sum of the preceding two.

Living things, including flowers, fruit and shellfish, also demonstrate similar arrangements, which scientists associate with the efficient packing of materials into growing organisms.

Quasicrystals are very hard and are poor conductors of heat and electricity, offering uses as thermoelectric materials, which convert heat into electricity. They also have non-stick surfaces, handy for frying pans, and appear in energy-saving light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and heat insulation in engines.

Astrid Graslund, secretary for the Nobel Committee for chemistry, said: "The practical applications are as of now, not so many. But the material has unexpected properties. It is very strong, it has hardly any friction on the surface. It doesn't want to react with anything -- they cannot ... become rusty.

"But it is more a conceptual insight - that these materials exist and we need to re-write all textbooks about crystals - it's a shift of the paradigm, which I think is most important."


Since Galileo was mocked by established scientists and persecuted by the church in the 16th century for observing that the Earth moved round the Sun rather than the reverse, overturning accepted wisdom has never been easy, as several of this year's Nobel prizewinners in science have shown.

Research that was largely ignored for years secured the medicine prize for the late Ralph Steinman and the astounding finding that the universe's expansion was speeding up not slowing down meant the physics prize for its joint discoverers.

But in a year when science is in a froth over whether particles may have been fired from Geneva to Italy faster than the speed of light -- apparently defying Einstein -- few in the modern age have had to battle disbelief as hard as Shechtman.

"He dealt with the scepticism in a very scientific and gentlemanly manner and answered his critics as every scientist should -- through science," Ron Lifshitz, a physics professor at Tel Aviv University, told Reuters. "There were also personal slurs but those did not warrant a response ... He believed in his own work and carried on with determination."

Interviewed about his Nobel by television in Israel, where the award was big national news for a small country with a long roster of laureates, Shechtman spoke of a photograph in his office that showed a small cat sipping water, surrounded by angry dogs; a biblical inscription read: "Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil".

"That's the way I felt for many years," Shechtman chuckled. "It accurately describes the situation, during that period."

He "trusted in his science", however, and came to see the criticism by the late Pauling, which Shechtman has described as "almost theological", as a positive source of strength:

"When you're a young scientist, and you're faced with perhaps the top international scientist, Professor Linus Pauling ... and he argues with you as an equal, and you know that he is wrong - that's not really such a bad feeling."

(Additional reporting by Simon Johnson in Stockholm, Ben Hirschler in London, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and Dan Williams, Ori Lewis and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Writing by Alastair Macdonald)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

U.S. Republican Palin decides not to run in 2012

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 09:15 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sarah Palin said on Wednesday that she will not seek the Republican U.S. presidential nomination in 2012, ending months of speculation and leaving the Republican field largely settled.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin takes the stage to speak at a Tea Party Express rally in Manchester, New Hampshire September 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files)

Palin had left the door open to a run but gave little sign of joining the race to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama. She made it official in a letter to supporters and in an interview with conservative talk radio host Mark Levin.

"After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for president of the United States," she said in the letter.

Her decision leaves Republican voters to choose from a field that is led by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and businessman Herman Cain, and includes a host of others.

Her announcement came a day after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie opted against running.

"Cinderella's not going to the ball, so Republican voters are going to have to settle for one of her ugly sisters," said Mark McKinnon, a former campaign adviser to Republicans George W. Bush and John McCain.

While most Republicans opposed a presidential bid by Palin, she still has a passionate core following of conservatives and her endorsement would be beneficial.

Perry, a top conservative candidate, quickly issued a statement that could be construed as a bid for her support.

"Sarah Palin is a good friend, a great American and a true patriot. I respect her decision and know she will continue to be a strong voice for conservative values and needed change in Washington," Perry said.

Experts did not believe Palin's supporters would necessarily gravitate toward any one candidate.

"In most polls she was down to single digits. My experience is when you're down to single digits, you split off a percent to this one and 1 or 2 percent to that one. It just doesn't transform the race at all," said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor.


In her letter, Palin cited family considerations as playing a major factor in her decision. She has felt the U.S. news media has gone too far in covering her family, such as the drama involving her daughter Bristol's tempestuous relationship with the father of her child, Levi Johnston.

She made clear she would turn her attention toward recreating a role she carved out for herself in the 2010 congressional elections, helping elect Tea Party conservatives to Congress, state governorships and the White House.

"I believe that I can be more effective and I can be more aggressive in this mission in a supportive role of getting the right people elected," she told Levin.

Palin's star had faded since her opening days as McCain's vice presidential nominee in 2008 when she burst onto the scene as a relative unknown and quickly became a conservative star and promoted herself as a "mama grizzly."

She has been polling far behind the main challengers for the Republican nomination and most Palin-watchers had long since concluded that she was not going to run based on a series of equivocating statements.

The only woman in the 2012 race now is Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who is popular with the same social conservatives who find Palin an electrifying presence.

There seemed to be no temptation by Palin to run for president as a third-party candidate.

"I would assume that a third party would just guarantee Obama's re-election and that's the last thing our republic can afford. So the consideration is not there for a third party, no," she told Levin.

Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University, said he expects Palin to be a factor in the 2012 elections.

"She has a very dedicated following and a knack for staying relevant in politics, even when she herself is not a candidate," he said.

(Additional reporting by William Schomberg, Lily Kuo and Jeff Mason; Editing by Vicki Allen)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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All Blacks to tone down razzle-dazzle as must-win attitude takes precedence

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:10 PM PDT

NEW ZEALAND (Sept 9 - Oct 23)

Expect the All Blacks to tone down the razzle-dazzle as as a must-win attitude takes precedence over entertainment in their sudden-death World Cup clash against Argentina on Sunday.

It is a game that is likely be decided in the forwards, where the powerful Argentinians back themselves, and when All Blacks hardman Brad Thorn talks about the pressure of knockout matches the rest of the team take notice.

Although a fearsome competitor on the field, it is hard to get the powerful lock excited off it but when questioned about what to expect in a play-off the 36-year-old dual code international lights up.

"I find it real refreshing, it's do the business or see ya later. To me I find that exciting," the veteran of a combined 400 first-class games of rugby union and league drawled in his trade-mark gravelly voice, a legacy from being hit in the neck.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry rates Thorn's experience as invaluable to the side, many of whom are playing in their first major tournament and have no experience of the cut-throat nature of knockout fixtures.

"He's the back bone of the team, one of the major back bones if you like," Henry said. "He's been there and played a lot of professional sport, he knows what it's about."

The New Zealand-born Thorn appeared in four Australian National Rugby League Grand Finals winning two of them with the Brisbane Broncos, featured in the tough State-of-Origin series and represented Australia in the 13-man game.

"In pool play you're trying to progress into the finals. Once you get to the knockout footy it really is if you don't do the business this week you're on your way home," he said.

"So from my experience from finals footy there is more intensity, it gets a lot more serious and for me as a player.

" I've enjoyed the last month but to me this is what it's about from now on."

Fellow rugby league convert Sonny Bill Williams, who clashed with Thorn in a preliminary Grand Final playing for the Sydney-based Bulldogs in 2006, would like New Zealand's backs to play with their customary freedom but knows that may not be possible.

"We've got to acknowledge this is knockout football and there's no tomorrow. You've got to find the right balance, not go into your shell but still express yourself, but obviously know it's finals time," he said.

The All Blacks pack were never fully tested in their pool matches, apart from a brief period in the second half of the match against Tonga, and Thorn welcomed Argentina's warning of an intense battle in the forwards.

"I think that's great. For me this level of footy is all about challenge and we've massive respect for Argentina, the scrum, lineout, forward play in general.

"So for me it's a great thing to come up against a really good opponent and test yourself and that's why it's called a Test match. I've a lot of respect for what they're going to bring and looking forward to a tight contest." — AFP

Button signs new deal with McLaren

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:08 PM PDT

LONDON: Former world champion Jenson Button has committed his long-term future to McLaren after signing a new contract with the British constructor yesterday.

Button, who won the world title in 2009, is in his second season with the team and is now set to continue for several more years, although the exact length of the deal has not been disclosed.

The 31-year-old has won a total of four races for the team and is second to Sebastian Vettel in the 2011 standings, with a slender chance of depriving the German of the world title.

Button had previously suggested he would be willing to extend his spell with McLaren and he admits the atmosphere in the team was crucial to his decision.

"I've never felt more at home at a team than I do at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes," the 31-year-old told his team's official website.

"I've won four of the greatest races of my life here, I'm currently lying second in the drivers' world championship, and I feel that I'm driving better than ever.

"You can only achieve that with the right level of support – and I truly believe that the passion and determination to win are stronger here at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes than anywhere else.

"As a Grand Prix driver, those are incredibly powerful feelings to share and be part of, and they've only reinforced my desire to commit my long-term future to this team.

"I've made no secret of my ambition to continue winning races and world championships, and I fully believe this is the place where I can achieve those aims.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh is confident that Button will be able to improve on his already successful time at McLaren in the coming years.

"Jenson is a great driver and a great guy," Whitmarsh said.

"In fact, I can safely say that he's one of the most capable and respected drivers we've ever had, and I'm therefore absolutely delighted that he'll continue to work with us into the future.

"He's a considerable credit to this organisation, and I'm proud to be his team principal.

"I feel sure that he'll now build on the considerable success he's already achieved with us, and will be even more successful with us in years to come." — AFP

Pumas: Opening quarter key against the Kiwis

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:07 PM PDT

NEW ZEALAND (Sept 9 - Oct 23)

It was the late American artist Andy Warhol who predicted everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.

But Argentina centre Marcelo Bosch believes that if the Pumas are still in the game against New Zealand in their last eight World Cup clash when a quarter-of-an-hour has ticked by at Eden Park here on Sunday, then they will have a shot at sporting immortality.

For the Pumas to beat hosts New Zealand would qualify as one of the all-time stunning rugby upsets.

But for Bosch, who never expected to be at this World Cup, victory over the mighty All Blacks would not be as far-fetched as the chain of events that has taken him into a starting role in the Pumas' midfield.

Bosch's was seen largely as a back-up to Gonzalo Tiesi when Argentina named their original 30-man World Cup squad.

But Tiesi's knee injury early in the Pumas' first pool game against England thrust Biarritz Olympique midfielder Bosch into the spotlight.

The 27-year-old, who came to New Zealand with only five Tests under his belt, went on to feature in all four of Argentina's group fixtures.

"This is a great moment for me, a great year, I cannot ask for more," Bosch saidyesterday as the South Americans began tapering off ahead of their clash with the top-ranked All Blacks.

"A few months ago I was dreaming of living this experience. I had confidence in myself but in the end I can play because of an injury to my team-mate and you have to take advantage of the situation."

Bosch said Argentina could not afford to be rattled by the pace of the All Blacks' game and needed to focus on their traditional strength of setting a platform through their forwards.

"We need to play our game, to slow down the pace. If we follow their pace, it will be bad for us," he said.

"We need to control the ball, and give it everything for the first 15 minutes and not concede any points.

"If in those 15 minutes they do not score, we could show them that we are there and that everything is posible". — AFP

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Italy credit rating down 3 notches

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:29 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Moody's Investors Service cut Italy's bond ratings by three notches, saying it saw a "material increase" in funding risks for eurozone countries with high levels of debt.

Moody's downgraded Italy's ratings to A2 from Aa2, a lower rating than that of Estonia, and kept a negative outlook on the rating, a sign that further downgrades are possible within the next few years.

The move comes after Standard and Poor's cut its rating on Italy to A/A1 from A+/A1+ on Sept 19 and underlines growing investor uncertainty about the eurozone's third largest economy, which is now firmly at the centre of the debt crisis.

"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."

Moody's also said 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 huge public debt amounting to 120% of gross domestic product and a struggling government coalition has caused mounting alarm in financial markets.

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

"It's not that it was 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 programmes. It will put another fiscal strait-jacket on them," he said.

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

Italy's borrowing costs have soared over the past three months and have only been kept under control by the European Central Bank's (ECB) purchase of its government bonds on secondary markets.

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

The centre-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi 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% next year, down from a previous projection of 1.3%.

The government last month pushed through a 60 billion-euro austerity package bringing forward by one year to 2013 a goal to balance its budget in return for support for its battered government bonds from the ECB.

Meanwhile, Berlusconi said Moody's decision to cut Italy's bond ratings was expected and reiterated that the government was committed to its budget goals.

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

Knowing market risk vital

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 05:56 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: To ensure the sustainability of a business amid the current economic uncertainties, companies including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should have trade credit insurance, the ability to manage market changes as well as take charge of their businesses by having the right strategies.

Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Bhd (Exim Bank) managing director and chief executive officer Adissadikin Ali said SMEs often do not have a trade credit insurance policy when they export overseas.

With the lingering eurozone sovereign debt crisis and sluggish US economy, local exporters were at higher risk of their payments being defaulted by overseas buyers, he said, adding that this could be averted by taking up such a policy.

In turbulent times, SMEs should look for opportunities in overseas markets to expand their reach. Before doing so, they should really understand the market risk and have the right management tools, Adissadikin said at The Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) 2011 roundtable discussion at Menara Star. Other speakers at the event were Bursa Malaysia issuer development, securities department head Arulnathan Michael Dass, Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia SMEs deputy chairman Koong Lin Loong and SMI Association of Malaysia national president Chua Tiam Wee.

Adissadikin said that over the last five years, the bank had provided total financing worth RM3bil to companies of which 80% were SMEs and the remaining corporates.

During this period, Exim Bank had also offered financing to more than 500 borrowers and close to 2,000 trade credit insurance policies were issued in facilitating cross-border ventures.

Chua said SMEs, in the current trying times, should keep a close eye on market changes and obtain the latest market information from relevant industry experts so that they could make informed business decisions.

They should also keep close contact with their key customers, suppliers and bankers to further support the growth of their businesses.

Cash management, Chua said, was an important tool as it was important to get the right market views to avoid making wrong decisions.He added that an SME had to be an opportunist to gain its competitors' market share when they exit the market. "For example, a company should not expand when customers are downsizing their stocks but instead it should conserve cash and other resources.

"SMEs can also scout for talent during a slowing economy when this pool of people are being released by multinational companies. This will boost the business of SMEs by having a skilled and talented workforce,'' Chua said.

Arulnathan, however, felt that companies needed to take charge of their business and not the other way around and fundamentally "rethink the whole business strategy".

For example, they need to look at their portfolios and whether it is better for them to divest or pursue an acquisition trail, launch new products or venture into new markets, according to him.

He felt that smaller companies or those driven by entrepreneurs were able to take more risks compared with the larger ones as they had lower opportunity costs and could shift resources and take advantage of opportunities, unlike their larger counterparts who were tied down to various processes.

Meanwhile, Koong said SMEs must not be too pessimistic during an economic slowdown. He cited a Chinese proverb that "when there are risks, there is also plenty of opportunities". He advocated SMEs to conform to the "4Ms" money, machinery (IT), men (human resource) and marketing to grow their businesses.

Koong said branding was an important marketing tool for SMEs to venture overseas, adding that a change of mindset was needed to achieve this initiative.

SOBA 2011 is organised by The Star with Exim Bank as presenter and BMW Malaysia as gold sponsor. It is supported by Bursa Malaysia and audited by BDO. The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur is the official hotel partner, Bernama TV the official TV news partner, Shang Hai the official business magazine and 98.8FM the official radio station.

The SOBA 2011 Awards ceremony will be held at The Royale Chulan, Kuala Lumpur. Find out what makes the chosen few stand out from the rest. Call Star Events at 03-7967 1388 ext 1475, 1436 or 1244 for enquiries and reservations.

RHB Cap looking forward to merger talks

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 05:54 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: RHB Capital Bhd, Malaysia's fifth-biggest banking group by assets, wants to grow in tandem with OSK Investment Bank Bhd's regional business map if the proposed merger deal between the two banking institutions goes through, according to RHB Banking Group principal officer Renzo Viegas.

"Both parties have submitted applications to Bank Negara to start talks on the merger and after the central bank grants us the permission, I am sure it will be fruitful talks between us," he told reporters after a signing ceremony between the bank and Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd (CGC) to formalise a strategic tie-up to further enhance the small and medium enterprises' (SMEs) access to financing through a new scheme the Enhancer Direct.

Bloomberg had earlier reported that a merger with OSK would strengthen RHB's stockbroking business after separate merger talks with Malayan Banking Bhd and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, the country's two largest banks, collapsed.

OSK Investment Bank, a unit of OSK Holdings, is Malaysia's fourth-biggest stockbroker by trading value this year, while RHB Investment Bank Bhd is ranked third, according to stock exchange data.

The combination of both parties would allow the enlarged group to overtake CIMB Investment Bank Bhd. as the country's top equity broker, Bloomberg said.

Currently, RHB Cap has a market capitalisation of about US$5bil (RM15.95bil).

Meanwhile, at the ceremony, CGC managing director Datuk Azhar Wan Ahmad said the Enhancer Direct was a credit guarantee scheme that was designed to assist viable SMEs that were unable to secure financing due to insufficient collateral and track record.

"With a RM200mil portfolio, the new scheme is expected to benefit some 800-1,000 SMEs across all economic sectors in Malaysia. The development of a healthy and resilient SME community requires a sound financial infrastructure that offers a wide spectrum of innovative products and services," he said.

He addded that the scheme was in line with the Government's financial inclusion policy that required all sections of the economy, the SMEs in particular, to have adequate access to a broader range of financing options in view of their critical role in the economic development of Malaysia.

"We have provided guarantee valued at RM50bil to over 400,000 SMEs in the last 39 years. With today's increasing demand for SME financing, there is a need to intensify efforts to develop new and innovative products that are tailored to the specific needs of SMEs. Towards this, we have forged strategic alliances with various financial institutions to drive product development and indirectly leverage on their network to improve outreach," he said.

Azhar also hoped the upcoming Budget 2012 would see the Government introduce a mechanism to subsidise the cost of SMEs getting a credit rating.

"The Government has made great strides in enhancing the competitiveness and credibility of SMEs but many SMEs are unaware or ignorant of credit ratings due to the costs and an inefficient procedure," he said.

The core issue, which was the credit standing of SMEs in getting loans, must be addressed, he said, adding: "When the SMEs do not get a loan, they tend to blame the banking institutions. However, the actual problem is that banks are afraid of taking a higher risk by providing loans for SMEs, without proper credit ratings."

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Six teens nabbed watching porn

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 08:01 AM PDT

KANGAR: Four secondary school students playing truant were among six teenagers nabbed by the police while they were watching pornographic videos at a unit at the Seri Sena apartments near here Wednesday.

Kangar police chief Supt Abdul Rahman Noordin said the teenagers, aged between 13 and 17, were arrested at about 11am following a tip off from the public.

The four students were from two schools here while the other two had been expelled from the same school, he told reporters here.

Abdul Rahman said police also seized about 60 copies of pornographic compact discs and three motorcycles in the raid.

He said the pornographic videos were believed to have been purchased from night markets around the district. - Bernama

Appeals of suspended DAP assemblymen likely to be heard Friday

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:30 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The DAP central executive committee (CEC) meeting scheduled Friday is likely to discuss the six-month suspensions meted out to two of its state assemblymen, according to party insiders.

Bentayan assemblyman Gwee Tiong Hiang and Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M. Manoharan were suspended by the party's disciplinary committee for two separate offences.

Gwee and two members from the Bakri division were suspended for alleged improprieties in managing party funds, and Manoharan over remark he made on the national flag.

When contacted, Gwee and Manoharan confirmed they had appealed their suspension to the CEC.

DAP deputy secretary-general Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham confirmed the CEC would hold its monthly meeting Friday and said since the assemblymen had filed appeals, it was likely that the committee would look into them.

"If they appealed, it would come up. It is a normal process for the CEC to deliberate on it," he said. - Bernama

Warning over 'Macau' scamming syndicate

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 05:37 AM PDT

MALACCA: The public has been advised to be wary of a "Macau" syndicate whose members masquerade as police or bank officers via email to scam unsuspecting victims.

State police chief SAC Datuk Chuah Ghee Lye said there were nine cases of cheating by the syndicate from January to September this year compared with 23 cases during the same period last year.

"The value of losses by victims rose from RM191,323.04 last year to RM564,760.40, an increase of 195%," he told a news conference at the state police headquarters in Bukit Beruang here Wednesday.

He said syndicate members, armed with confidential banking information, would inform their victims that Bank Negara Malaysia would be freezing their accounts for involvement in criminal actvities.

"The victims would be persuaded to 'park' their funds with accounts provided by the syndicate. By the time the victim became aware of the scam, it would be too late," he said. - Bernama

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Touch of Tinseltown

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 04:54 AM PDT

High on fun

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 04:22 AM PDT

Malaysian flavour

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 05:05 PM PDT

IT is hard to avoid Namewee's Nasi Lemak 2.0 these days. Lately, the movie has been in the news for the wrong reasons, with a group called Pertubuhan Gagasan Rakyat Didahulukan protesting against the film outside a cinema in Ipoh. The group demanded a boycott of the film because of its alleged political connotations.

A columnist for a local Malay-language newspaper also published an article criticising the 26-year-old artiste-cum-filmmaker, accusing him of insulting Malaysians, and stating that she would not watch the movie even if she was given tickets.

Never one to shy away from controversy or a challenge, Namewee retaliated by lambasting her in an expletive-ridden YouTube rant, challenging the writer to watch the movie, even offering to buy her the tickets. (When contacted, a spokesperson for Namewee said that the video was to make sure the mass media do not judge him and his film before even watching the movie.)

Fortunately, this negativity towards the movie seems to be stemming from a small group, and has not stopped the rest of us from flocking to cinemas to watch the film. The movie has raked in more than RM5mil at the box office so far and has been earning rave reviews from Malaysians of all races.

According to the film's producer Fred Chong, about 80% to 90% of the people who have watched the movie liked it.

This is particularly surprising because Namewee's past projects have always split people down the middle – you either love it or hate it.

"This time around, most people liked it. We've gotten lots of positive reviews, and feedback from bloggers, Facebook, Twitter and so on," said Chong.

According to him, when they screened the movie in Melbourne, Australia, during a special premiere in conjunction with Merdeka Day, many of those who watched it came up to them and said it made them feel homesick.

"Many people also got a craving for Malaysian food straight away, especially nasi lemak!" he said with a laugh. "But one of the most common feedback we've received is that this is what a real 1Malaysia film should be like."

Management executive Daim Anuar, 27, concurred, reckoning that Namewee got the best from all the different cultures, and managed to put them all in one movie.

"It's like he made us a part of Nasi Lemak 2.0. It wasn't just for Chinese or Malays to enjoy – anyone could watch it and feel proud to be Malaysian," he said. "It was quite an enjoyable movie. It was very multi-racial, and showed not just our culture, but what we do in the morning when we get up, the traffic jams we put up with, how we are willing to line up for our favourite foods …"

Chemical engineering student Ganeshwaien Mathialagan, 20, thinks that the movie really brings out what our country is like. "Namewee really understands what is going on in Malaysia. Everyone should watch this movie, especially if you are a Malaysian or want to know more about Malaysia," he said, adding that although the movie pokes fun at the different cultures, it was not done in an offensive manner.

Medical student Tan Soon Yee, 21, is a big fan of Namewee, and admires the artiste's courage and outspokenness. "I like Namewee, he dares to speak up about national issues and include them in his songs and films. Namewee just wants Malaysians to have fun while understanding the national issues," said Tan, adding that when he watched the movie, he noticed that the cinema hall was filled with people of all races, all laughing along to the jokes.

"We were all laughing from the start of the movie until the end! I think it was funny to all of us because it is so localised," he said.

The fact that the primary language of the film is Mandarin with a smattering of different Chinese dialects, Malay, English and Tamil was not a barrier to most fans.

Writer Amirul Ruslan, 21, loved the movie so much that he went to watch it again with his family dring his mother's birthday. His family had never watched a non-Malay or English movie in the cinema before, and to their surprise, they still managed to understand and laugh at all the jokes.

"Even though it was mostly in Mandarin, the subtitles were done well, and I could follow it very easily," he said.

While Amirul reckons that Namewee wasn't out to make a political statement with the movie, he also thinks that it's hard not to touch on political issues when you are making a movie about Malaysia.

"If you watch Nasi Lemak 2.0, you'll see that this is actually a very Malaysian story, and that he loves this country, but is just being critical about the situation here. This is Namewee's love letter to Malaysia, in his own way."

Nasi Lemak 2.0 is playing in cinemas.

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