Khamis, 13 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Scream fest

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 02:30 AM PDT

IF you've been feeling chills in the air and thrills down your spine, you can scream it all out this Halloween with Red FM's Screampasses.

In conjunction with the scariest month of the year, Red FM has been giving away premiere screening passes to movies that will make you jump in your seat.

Starting with The Thing in the first week of the month, listeners have also been winning passes to the premiere of Paranormal Activity 3 all this week. If you missed out on your chance to catch either one of these movies, you can still pick up tickets to the final movie being shown as part of the Red FM's Screampasses series. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark will premiere on Oct 25 in GSC Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur, at 9pm. Starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce, the movie centres on a little girl who discovers unknown creatures in her new home. Just listen out for the cue next week to win tickets to the premiere. Have a fun time at the movies, courtesy of United International Pictures.

However, if you prefer to dance the Halloween night away, you can do so with Red FM's Remix Scream Party on Oct 29. Held at @LOFT Asian Heritage Row located in Kuala Lumpur, DJ Razz and guest DVJ G-Mix will hook you up with top club songs, electronic dance tracks and dance anthem remixes.

DJ Razz will be spinning an addictive blend of hip hop to house vibes while DVJ G-Mix will be displaying his unique skills of "visualising sounds" as he loads his audiences with hypnotic, head turning visuals. Win passes to the scariest party in town in the next two weeks and come dressed in your most awesome Halloween costume.

It's going to be a thriller of a month, so stay tuned to find out when these contests will come on air and check out for more details. Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page ( and follow us on Twitter (@iloveredfm) for the latest updates of all contests.

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

> Red FM's station frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1 FM; George Town and Seberang Prai: 107.6 FM; Ipoh: 106.4 FM; Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9 FM; Kuantan: 91.6 FM; Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9 FM; Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8 FM.

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Different strokes

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 02:28 AM PDT

ACCORDING to Hannah Al Rashid, being a product of mixed race is both a blessing and a curse. Never mind how she looks, the internal conflict of "Who are you?" beguiles her more she says, quite dramatically, when asked about her "mongrel" background. (Her word, not mine.)

Born and raised in London to a French mother and Indonesian father, the 25-year-old considers English her mother tongue although she speaks French and Indonesian just as well. Three years ago, she decided to come to Jakarta to pursue a television career, as job prospects in London weren't looking too good. "Also I wanted to see if I could live Asia, where my dad is from."

After graduating from Development Studies at University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, she wanted to work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), but that plan didn't materialise. Meanwhile, she had done a music video with Indonesian band Yovie & Nuno, who were shooting in London, so that gave her a way into the entertainment business.

"I had a quite a few offers before but basically I explored hosting out of necessity because I was low on money. And I thought why not take on the offers I currently have. Then I started to enjoy it."

Having gone to the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London, she has experience in drama, music and dancing. It was only in university that she became very academic. "Now I have the chance to get back into the arts scene."

One of the paths that has recently opened up for her is a part in the upcoming Joko Anwar psychological thriller titled Modus Anomali. She starts rehearsing as soon as tomorrow.

"I am very excited about that. And I am very grateful that I am getting my break from my favourite Indonesian director. Bang Joko is my favourite person in the world. He is what every man should be like. When you meet him, he greets you with a hug and he tells you how beautiful you are. And I am like, 'Bang, you know what, I wish all men greeted all women like that.' He is definitely on my list of the nicest, most charming and honest people I have met in this industry. He brings out a really lovely quality in you, so I am hoping that when we start he'll bring out some good acting in me."

Hannah is just as excited about being a new face of Li. Like her counterpart in Hong Kong, Jason Godfrey, she loves food and travelling. She hopes with the wider scope that Li offers, Indonesia will be recognised as a place for good lifestyles and a place to visit for entertainment, food and fashion.

"I am very proud of my culture and I think Indonesia is probably the least exposed country when it comes to lifestyle. At the same time we have so much to offer. So I am very proud to bring the best of Indonesia to the rest of Asia."

It is apparent from her energetic personality that Hannah is someone who is enjoying life very much right now. What is probably most admirable is her sense of adventure – moving all the way to Indonesia while her whole family is back in London, and only armed with the knowledge that she can do anything. "This is a very fickle industry – people get bored of you fast but I am not afraid of that. I am very passionate about what I do when I have it but I won't limit myself to just that. I am open to any possibility." – Mumtaj Begum

Related Stories:
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The finer things

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 02:28 AM PDT

SERIOUSLY, who wouldn't want to swap jobs with Li channel's TV host David Yee? With a job that requires him to travel, eat, drink and be merry, wouldn't anyone love to be in his shoes – even if it were just for a day?

"Being Malaysia's host of Li's two-minute vignettes is a great opportunity. Whether it's dining in the next hottest restaurant, interviewing a Michelin-starred chef, or keeping up to date with the latest interior design trends and fashion, I get to experience the essence of inspirational living.

"It is exciting to be part of this as I personally enjoy these experiences. In fact, one of the reasons I was selected was because of my craving for inspiring lifestyle experiences. It is one of the best jobs in the world and I have no complaints," joked chiselled-faced Yee, who is of Australian Chinese parentage, and now resides in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, with his Malaysian wife and three children.

The 42-year-old says playing host has not only broadened his knowledge about latest lifestyle trends in and around Malaysia but also across the Asian continent. One of the best benefits of hosting is that it has enabled him to put his passion for interior design to good use by decorating his home in suburban Taman Megah.

"Speaking to different interior designers has worked to my benefit as it has enabled me to understand certain design concepts and colour themes. It has helped in giving my home a pragmatic and contemporary feel," said Yee, whose interest in interior design began six years ago.

Although Yee might be a relatively new face here, he isn't a stranger to the media spotlight. In his 20s, he started modelling in his hometown of Sydney, Australia then moved to Singapore to further explore modelling opportunities.

Soon, he became the face for numerous advertising campaigns including telecommunications giant Singtel and credit card company Mastercard. It was only a matter of time before a Singaporean TV station offered him the opportunity to host an entertainment programme, Showbuzz, giving him the chance to interview some of Tinseltown's biggest names.

While he may have rubbed shoulders with Hollywood's A-listers, the attractive Australian comes across as more of a down-to-earth family man. Throughout this interview, he spoke fondly of his wife Jacqueline and young daughters Isabel, Alexis and Chelsea, aged between one and four.

Although some might think he enjoys the high life, in truth, Yee is a homebody who enjoys spending time with his family. When he isn't busy with hosting responsibilities and his day job as a PR manager for design college Raffles College, he prefers to cook, yes ... cook!

"Weekends is when I cook for the family and watch a movie with the children. I enjoy making my own pasta for the children," said Yee.

He hopes to share his vision of a balanced life via his link slot on Li.

"There is always a better way to live life. My life is good but I keep striving to have more balance between work and family life." – Sheela Chandran

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Salvage of stricken ship off NZ resumes, businesses voice fears

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 08:24 PM PDT

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Salvage experts were preparing on Friday to pump more oil off a stricken container ship off the New Zealand coast as businesses started to count the cost of the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

Debris and a container from the stricken container ship Rena lie on the beach just south of Mount Maunganui October 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Maritime New Zealand/Handout)

The Liberian-flagged Rena has been stuck for nine days on a reef 14 miles (22 km) off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, spilling about 300 tonnes of heavy toxic fuel and some of its hundreds of containers into the sea.

Splits down the middle of the hull of the 236-metre (775-foot) ship have raised fears it will break apart spilling hundreds more tonnes of oil.

Salvage teams were back on board the 47,230-tonne ship preparing to cut holes in the stern to get to the tanks holding about 1,000 tonnes of fuel.

"It's complex, it's hard, it's difficult and they will start pumping as soon as they can," Maritime NZ spokesman Bruce Anderson told reporters.

Oil has washed up along about 40 km (25 miles) of the coast, which is popular with surfers and fishermen.

Weather and sea conditions were favourable, but winds are expected to strengthen and may force the salvage workers off the ship, which is listing at about 21 degrees.

The salvage company, Svitzer Ltd, said working conditions were difficult.

"There are containers on that vessel that are still very loose and could topple over. There is no power on the vessel, so when the salvors go below deck it is pitch dark," said company spokesman Matt Watson.

Platforms have been built to clip on to the stern to give level access to the ship's tanks, but Watson said it was unlikely pumping would resume on Friday.


Tourism businesses in the district, which is a holiday spot renowned for good surfing waves and big-game fishing, were reporting cancellations, and some were fearing for their survival.

"Effectively, I think a lot of people will have to sell their business or go under," said surf school operator, Bjorn Waling, adding that oil could be washing up on the coast for years, which would ruin the district's reputation.

The area's chamber of commerce is working with government agencies on possible short-term subsidies and payments to affected businesses.

Hundreds of white-suited workers, including soldiers, wildlife experts, and residents, returned to beaches to collect the foul-smelling fuel oil that has fouled more than 40 km (30 miles) of sandy beaches.

More than 100 tonnes of oil have been recovered from an estimated 300 that leaked from the ship, while about 20 containers of the 88 known to have fallen off the ship have been washed up.

Preparations were also being made in the small town of Whakatane, about 80 km (50 miles) down the coast from Tauranga, should wind and currents push oil that far.

Operations at Tauranga, the country's biggest export port, were back to normal after being shut overnight to clear debris, including containers, from the harbour and shipping lanes.

The ship's captain and second officer, both from the Philippines, have been charged and remanded on bail, accused of operating the ship in a dangerous manner.

But the mayor of Tauranga dismissed an apology from the ship's owners, Greece-based Costamare Shipping Inc.

"It's half an apology and a lot of excuse, no it's not good enough, I'd like to see the ship's owner come to Tauranga and stand up in front of our people," Stuart Crosby said on TVNZ.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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U.S. convicts three men of Jihad plot

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 08:24 PM PDT

RALEIGH, N.C. (Reuters) - A U.S. jury found three North Carolina men guilty on Thursday of conspiring to provide material support to Islamist militants in foreign countries.

The indictment named the three men, all in their 20s, as Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi, both U.S. citizens, and Hysen Sherifi, a native of Kosovo and U.S. resident.

It said Boyd, a drywall contractor from Willow Spring, North Carolina, had drawn his sons and the other men into a plan to travel abroad to help Islamist militants, although prosecutors have said there was no indication they were linked to any international militant organization.

The indictment added that Boyd had travelled between 1989 and 1992 to Pakistan and Afghanistan, "where he received military-style training in terrorist training camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad."

It added that from at least November 2006, when the federal investigation began, Boyd conspired with the other defendants "to provide material support and resources to terrorists, including currency, training, transportation and personnel."

Boyd and Sherifi were also accused of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel "in an attack on government and military installations in Virginia and elsewhere."

The federal jury found Sherifi guilty on five counts, including three counts of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists; to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons; and to kill a federal officer or employee. He also was convicted of two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

The jury found Yaghi guilty on two counts of conspiracy. Hassan was convicted on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, but acquitted on a second count of conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people, court records show.

The government's case was based largely on secretly recorded conversations between the defendants and statements from a confidential informant.

Mauri Saalakhan, director of the Peace Through Justice Foundation, based in the Washington D.C. area, attended closing arguments and said the convictions were brought about by "a post-9/11 atmosphere of fear and patriotism."

"I just feel it was a terrible miscarriage of justice that doesn't make America any safer," Saalakhan said.

(Edited by Colleen Jenkins, Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Obama says Iran to face toughest possible sanctions

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 06:51 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama warned Iran on Thursday it would face the toughest possible sanctions for an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, as officials eyed action against its central bank.

U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (not in photo) hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, October 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Saudi Arabia on Thursday accused Iran of fomenting instability but pledged a "measured response" over the alleged plot that has heightened tensions between OPEC's two top oil producers.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said, on a visit to Austria, that the evidence showed "Iran is responsible" for the alleged plot and said Tehran had tried to "meddle" in the affairs of Arab states before.

In Washington, Obama told a news conference that the United States would not take any options off the table in dealing with Iran, a phrase U.S. officials regularly use toward Tehran that is diplomatic code for the possibility of military action.

"This is part of a pattern of dangerous and reckless behavior by the Iranian government," Obama said in his first public comments on the affair.

U.S. authorities on Tuesday said they had broken up a plot by two men linked to Iran's security agencies to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. One was arrested last month while the other was believed to be in Iran.

Iran called the accusations a fabrication designed to hurt its relations with its neighbors .

The U.S. Treasury Department said it was weighing more sanctions against Iran's central bank to tighten the financial screws and deepen the country's estrangement from the international financial community.

Obama came to office in 2009 promising to seek diplomatic engagement with Iran.

But his outreach failed to halt Iran's nuclear advances and he has instead spearheaded several packages of international sanctions. The plot raises tensions to a new level between the Obama administration and Iran, which says its nuclear work is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

Obama told reporters during a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak the United State would continue "to apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and pays a price for this kind of behavior."

"Now, we don't take any options off the table in terms of how we operate with Iran, but what you can expect is that we will continue to apply the sorts of pressure that will have a direct impact on the Iranian government until it makes a better choice in terms of how it's going to interact with the rest of the international community," Obama said.


U.S. financial institutions are already generally banned from doing business with any bank in Iran, including the central bank. But the U.S. Treasury said more action, if it had international support, could further isolate the institution.

The White House has persistently sought to highlight the disparity between Iran's support for popular uprisings against other autocratic regimes in the region and its brutal treatment of protesters at home, and Obama repeated this message.

"We will continue to work to see how we can bring about a Iranian government that is actually responsive to its people but also following the rules of the roads that other countries and the international community follow," he said.

Iran denied the charges and expressed outrage at the accusations.

"We hold them (Iran) accountable for any action they take against us," Prince Saud said in Vienna, where he was discussing opening a religious dialogue center. "Any action they take against us will have a measured response from Saudi Arabia."

"The goal is pretty clear -- they want to throw up problems, break good relations and foster instability in international relations," he added. "It hurts us very much. Iran is one of our neighbors, it is an Islamic land, and we had never thought that Iran could take such a step and plan such an attack."

Asked what actions Saudi Arabia might take, he said: "We have to wait and see."

Iran meanwhile painted the accusation as a plot to create rifts between the two Middle East powers.

"We have no problem with Saudi Arabia. ... Though our interpretation of regional developments are different ... I hope Saudis are aware of the fact that our enemies do not want us to have convergence and cooperation," Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told state radio on Thursday.

Some Iran experts were skeptical about the plot, saying they could not see the motive for such an assassination. Iran has in the past killed its own dissidents abroad, but an attempt to target an ambassador of another country would be a highly unusual departure.

Iran said the allegations threaten stability in the Gulf -- where Saudi Arabia and Iran, the biggest regional powers, are fierce rivals and Washington has a huge military presence.

Russia, which built a nuclear power plant for Iran, expressed concern over reports of the alleged plot.

The reports "have been treated with concern in Moscow," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Russia has used pressure on Iran as a diplomatic tool in its relations with Washington, which have improved in recent years.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran soured after the 1979 revolution that brought Shiite Muslim clerics to power on the other side of the Gulf. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran consider themselves protectors of Islam's two main rival sects.

The rift sharpened this year after Saudi Arabia deployed troops to the Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain to crush a Shi'ite-led uprising there.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Angus McDowall and Sylvia Westall; Editing by Will Dunham)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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Welsh Lions possess right attitude and confidence to defeat France

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 05:15 PM PDT

WALES bring form, confidence and a fearless attitude to the first rugby World Cup semi–final against France at Eden Park tomorrow.

A generation of Welsh players struggled in the shadow of the team who ruled Europe in the 1970s and as recently as last November the national team were assailed on all sides when they drew 16–16 with Fiji.

This year, Fiji, who eliminated Wales from the 2007 World Cup, were drawn in Wales' group again along with defending champions South Africa and Samoa, who upset Wales in the 1991 World Cup and again eight years later.

Pessimists feared the Welsh could fail to advance from the group stages. However, instead of faltering under the pressure they have flourished.

They lost by a point to South Africa in a match they should have won and then swept Samoa and Fiji aside to set up a quarter–final against Ireland.

Last weekend's 22-10 victory over Ireland, who defeated Australia in the group stages, revealed a team hitting their peak with a tough forward pack setting a platform for a backline combining brute strength with old–fashioned Welsh subtlety and invention.

One major plus for Wales has been the belated return to form of a group of players who performed so well in a losing Lions' series in South Africa two years ago and who now form the spine of the Welsh side.

Jamie Roberts, bristling with muscular authority and aggression has been the outstanding centre of the tournament.

Mike Phillips is once again a commanding figure at scrumhalf, Alun Wyn Jones is back to his best in the second row and Adam Jones has shown why he is regarded as one of the most skilled tighthead props.

Even the loss of flyhalf Rhys Priestland with an injured left shoulder sustained in the Ireland match will not weaken Wales.

His replacement James Hook is a splendid all–round footballer who has been selected ahead of the dependable Stephen Jones.

Wales arrived at the tournament with the best–conditioned team in their history after a gruelling training camp in Poland and they have been fortunate with injuries.

"The conditioning the players did early mornings and last thing at night, training four or five times a day, was not pleasant at the time but, when you look back, it has paid dividends," Hook said yesterday.

"I found it tough physically. It was tiring and taxing. We had not done it before but everyone came through it for the better."

France, enigmatic as ever, became the only second side to reach the quarter–finals after losing two group matches but then sent England packing last weekend.

Coach Marc Lievremont, who was barely on speaking terms with his players after they lost to Tonga, has kept faith with scrumhalf Morgan Parra at flyhalf and may also entrust the converted scrumhalf with the kicking duties.

Parra's halfback partner Dimitri Yachvili, the first choice kicker, is carrying a thigh injury which could be aggravated if he is asked to kick.

France are burdened with the reputation of a side who play one big game in a tournament, as they have shown by beating New Zealand (twice), Australia and England in the knockout stages, but then go no further.

"We mustn't rest on our laurels. Getting to the semi–final is a very big deal and I'm very happy with the performance of my players," Lievremont said.

"As you may have noticed after the last match, there was no extreme euphoria, the players began straight away focusing on the rest of the tournament."

France have won six of their last seven matches against Wales although historically, there is nothing between two teams who meet for the first time in a World Cup. Since their first encounter in 1908, Wales have won 44 times, France 43 with three draws. – Reuters

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Unheralded golfer takes surprise opening round lead in India

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 05:14 PM PDT

NEW DELHI: Unheralded Chiragh Kumar of India fired a sparkling eight–under 64 to take a surprising one shot lead in the first round of the Hero Indian Open yesterday.

Chiragh upstaged the stellar Asian Tour stars gathered at the Delhi Golf Club with a flawless round highlighted by eight birdies in the US$1.25mil event.

Veteran Zaw Moe of Myanmar was a further stroke back with Scotland's Ross Bain and Lin Wen-hong of Taiwan, who is eyeing to make amends from his disqualification for signing the wrong score card in the final round of the Yeangder TPC last week.

Chiraggh, 27, a 2006 Asian Games team silver medallist, could have extended his lead by two but missed a 15–foot eagle putt on the last hole.

"I wanted to keep it simple. I didn't have a score in mind but I read my putts well. The Asian Tour has staged quite a number of events in India this year and I've definitely improved playing with Asia's best," said Chiragh, a two–time winner on the local circuit.

"I don't have any expectations in this tournament but I hope I can continue my form and hopefully I'll still be on top the leader board on Sunday," said Kumar, whose best finish was tied for 10th at the 2006 Indian Open when he was still an amateur.

Zaw Moe, 44, has enjoyed two top–10 finishes since changing to a belly putter in the Macau Open in September and needed only 25 putts in a round of six birdies and one eagle on the par–five 14th hole where his seven wood approach landed six feet from the hole.

"One of the reasons to my good form is my belly putter which has helped me a lot.

"My putting has been very consistent since I changed it and my confidence is really high at the moment," said Zaw Moe, whose last victory on the Asian Tour was in 1997.

Wen–hong would have finished joint third if he did not sign for the wrong score last week but he bounced back with a flawless round today highlighted by five straight birdies starting from the 13th hole.

"I was really sad after last week but it looks like I've recovered," said the Taiwanese player, who shot five consecutive birdies from the 13th hole.

"To be honest, I didn't expect to play well here. I came here without thinking of winning at all. I'm here just to play hole by hole and hopefully get a good result," added the younger brother of Asian Tour winners Wen–tang and Wen–ko.

The Dubai–based Bain, who finished second in the Indian Open in 2001, carded his best score at the Delhi Golf Club highlighted by birdies in his opening three holes.

He added four more birdies, one eagle and two bogeys to share the first round lead.

"I got off to a fast start and started playing better as the round went on. I played very well on the par–fives, which you have to do on this course.

"I've played here a lot over the years and it is nice to feel that I got the better of Delhi Golf Club," said Bain, who is searching for a maiden Asian Tour victory.

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A whale of a time

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 05:13 PM PDT

Spain's Azahara Munoz is hoping to clinch her first LPGA title by winning the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia – and give herself an early birthday present.

The Malaga-born golfer, who turns 24 on Nov 19, fired a sensational four-under 67 on the opening day of the US$1.9mil tournament to lie one shot off the leaders at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC).

She attributed her good score to the changes she has made to her swing this year.

"I've yet to achieve my aim for the year as I made a few swing changes in the beginning of the year.

"I have been changing my swing to get a better grip on my game," she said.

"It has taken me a long time to hit a good shot. Now, I'm hitting the ball better and that has given me greater confidence in my game.

"This is a good tournament as nine of the top 10 players are here. It won't be easy (to win). If the top players play well, they will top the leaderboard on all four days.

"However, golf changes every day and if you nail your putts, then the chances of winning are good. I'm hoping to hit the greens and fairways and sink the putts to put myself in contention here."

Munoz, however, reckons that the scorching weather could have a big say in the title race.

"Obviously, the weather is hot and the ball will play different, but I'm happy with the way I've started today (first round). The main thing is to keep it going and be consistent out there," she said.

Munoz will play in Taiwan next week before rounding off her season in Japan, Mexico and Orlando, United States.

Yesterday, she fired six birdies but bogeys in the first and the 14th holes saw her ending up sharing fifth spot with American Paige Mckenzie.

Her birdies came in the sixth, seventh, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

The world No. 51 also revealed that she is a big football fan – with a soft spot for Real Madrid.

"Yes, I'm a Real Madrid fan and I like the way Cristiano Ronaldo plays. He's good-looking, but I've seen better!" she quipped.

"Besides football, I enjoy music, especially Spanish and American pop."

If Munoz can hit the right notes on the KLGCC fairways, she will not only bag her maiden title but also sing all the way to the bank.

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The Star Online: Business

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Soros: not a funder of Wall Street protests

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 05:56 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - George Soros isn't a financial backer of the Wall Street protests, despite speculation by critics including radio host Rush Limbaugh that the billionaire investor has helped fuel the anti-capitalist movement.

Limbaugh summed up the chatter when he told his listeners last week, "George Soros money is behind this."

Soros spokesman Michael Vachon said that Soros has not "funded the protests directly or indirectly." He added: "Assertions to the contrary are an attempt by those who oppose the protesters to cast doubt on the authenticity of the movement."

Soros has donated at least $3.5 million (2.2 million pounds) to an organisation called the Tides Centre in recent years, earmarking the funds for specific purposes. Tides has given grants to Adbusters, an anti-capitalist group in Canada whose inventive marketing campaign sparked the first demonstrations last month.

Vachon said Open Society specified what its donations could be used for. He said they were not general purpose funds to be used at the discretion of Tides -- for example for grants to Adbusters. "Our grants to Tides were for other purposes."

Tides declined to comment.

According to IRS disclosure documents from 2007-2009, the latest data available, Soros' Open Society gave grants of $3.5 million to Tides, a San Francisco-based group that acts almost like a clearing house for other donors, directing their contributions to liberal non-profit groups. Among others the Tides Centre has partnered with are the Ford Foundation and the Gates Foundation.

IRS disclosure documents and reports from Tides also show that Tides gave Adbusters grants of $185,000 from 2001-2010, including nearly $26,000 between 2007-2009.

The Vancouver-based Adbusters publishes a magazine with a circulation of 120,000 and is known for its spoofs of popular advertisements. It says it wants to "change the way corporations wield power" and its goal is "to topple existing power structures."

Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn said the group is 95 percent funded by subscribers paying for the magazine.

"George Soros's ideas are quite good, many of them. I wish he would give Adbusters some money, we sorely need it," he said. "He's never given us a penny."

Adbusters may have sparked Occupy Wall Street but it is by no means in control of the disparate movement, with the protests now in their fourth week and spreading to cities across America. President Barack Obama, BlackRock Chief Executive Laurence Fink and Soros himself are among those who have expressed sympathy for the protesters' frustration with high unemployment.


"I can understand their sentiment," Soros told reporters last week at the United Nations about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, which are expected to spur solidarity marches globally on Saturday. He declined to comment further.

Soros, 81, is No. 7 on the Forbes 400 list with a fortune of $22 billion, which has ballooned in recent years as he deftly responded to financial market turmoil. He has pledged to give away all his wealth, half of it while he earns it and the rest when he dies.

Like the protesters, Soros is no fan of the 2008 bank bailouts and subsequent government purchase of the toxic sub-prime mortgage assets they amassed in the property bubble.

The protesters say the Wall Street bank bailouts in 2008 left banks enjoying huge profits while average Americans suffered under high unemployment and job insecurity with little help from Washington. They contend that the richest 1 percent of Americans have amassed vast fortunes while being taxed at a lower rate than most people.

Soros in 2009 wrote in an editorial that the purchase of toxic bank assets would, "provide artificial life support for the banks at considerable expense to the taxpayer."

He urged the Obama administration to take bolder action, either by recapitalizing or nationalizing the banks and forcing them to lend at attractive rates. His advice went unheeded.

The Hungarian-American was an early supporter of the 2008 election campaign of Barack Obama, who will seek a second term as president in the November, 2012, election. He has long backed liberal causes - the Open Society Institute, the foreign policy think tank Council on Foreign Relations and Human Rights Watch.


Adbusters, which publishes a magazine and runs such campaigns as "Digital Detox Week" and "Buy Nothing Day," came up with the Occupy Wall Street idea after Arab Spring protests toppled governments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, said Lasn, the 69-year-old co-founder of the group.

"It came out of these brainstorming sessions we have at Adbusters," Lasn told Reuters, adding they began promoting it online on July 13. "We were inspired by what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and we had this feeling that America was ripe for a Tahrir moment."

"We felt there was a real rage building up in America, and we thought that we would like to create a spark which would give expression for this rage."

Other support for Occupy Wall Street has come from online funding website Kickstarter, where more than $75,000 has been pledged, deliveries of food and from cash dropped in a bucket at the park. Liberal film maker Michael Moore has also pledged to donate money.

The protests began in earnest on September 17, triggered by an Adbusters campaign featuring a provocative poster showing a ballerina dancing atop the famous bronze bull in New York's financial district as a crowd of protesters wearing gas masks approach behind her.

Dressed in anarchist black, the battle-ready mob is shrouded in a fog suggestive of tear gas or fires burning. Some are wearing gas masks, others wielding sticks. The poster's message seems to be a heady combination of sexuality, violence, excitement and adventure.

Former carpenter Robert Daros, 23, saw that poster in a cafe in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Having lost his work as a carpenter after Florida's speculative construction boom collapsed in a heap of sub-prime mortgage foreclosures, he quit his job as a bartender and travelled to New York City with just a sleeping bag and the hope of joining the protest movement.

Daros was one of the first people to arrive on Wall Street for the so-called occupation on September 17, when protesters marched and tried to camp on Wall Street only to be driven off by police to Zuccotti Park - two acres of concrete without a blade of grass near the rising One World Trade Centre.

"When I was a carpenter, I lost my job because the financier of my project was arrested for corporate fraud," said Daros, who was wearing a red arm band to show he was helping out in the medic section of the Occupy Wall Street camp.

Since its obscure beginnings, the campaign has drawn global media attention in places as far-flung as Iran and China. The Times of London, however, was not alone when it called the protests "Passionate but Pointless."

Adbusters' co-founder Lasn dismisses that, reeling off specific demands: a tax on the richest 1 percent, a tax on currency trades and a tax on all financial transactions.

"Down the road, there will be crystal clear demands coming out of this movement," he said. "But this first phase of the movement is messy and leaderless and demandless."

"I think it was perfect the way it happened."

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Fitch downgrades UBS, puts other banks on review

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 05:54 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) Fitch Ratings downgraded UBS AG on Thursday and placed seven other U.S. and European banks on credit watch negative, citing challenges in the economy and financial markets, as well as the impact of new regulations.

The ratings agency lowered UBS's long-term issuer default rating to A from A+.

Fitch is also reviewing ratings for Barclays Bank Plc , BNP Paribas , Credit Suisse Group AG , Deutsche Bank AG , Societe Generale , Bank of America Corp , Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc for further possible downgrades.

The cuts would in most cases be one notch and in some cases two notches, Fitch said. A lower bond rating can make debt more expensive to issue and lead to higher collateral requirements.

Earlier on Thursday, Fitch also lowered its ratings on Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group PLC two notches to A from AA-.

Exposure to the European debt crisis and concern about the business model of pure-play investment banks were catalysts for most of the ratings actions, Joo-Yung Lee, a managing director in Fitch's financial institutions group, told Reuters.

"Some of these banks have greater reliance on wholesale funding and greater reliance on what we view as volatile trading earnings," Lee said. "That's particularly true of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley in the U.S. They are less diverse than their global universal bank peers."

In the case of Bank of America, its exposure to mortgage-related litigation was a driver for Fitch's review. Competitors like Wells Fargo & Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co were not targeted because they have diverse business models, steady funding streams and no company-specific issues that put them at serious risk, Lee said.

Fitch does not have a specific deadline to finish its review, but Lee said it hopes to resolve the matter quickly to reduce market uncertainty.

(Additional r

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Rajaratnam prison term follows sentencing trends

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 05:52 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The 11-year prison term handed down on Thursday to Raj Rajaratnam is the latest example of an inside trader receiving a lighter sentence than suggested by federal guidelines.

U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell said that under the federal guidelines, the Galleon Group hedge fund founder had faced a minimum of 19-1/2 years in prison. In opting for a substantially lighter sentence, Holwell took a number of factors into consideration.

Among other things, he cited Rajaratnam's charitable works and "impending kidney failure" due to advanced diabetes.

The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which went into effect in 1987, were meant to bring more consistency to sentencing. After a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005, the guidelines became advisory, giving judges greater flexibility.

Judges, in fact, often find reasons to depart downward, according to a Reuters analysis of sentences imposed in 2009 and 2010. That analysis looked at 15 insider-trading cases brought by the U.S. Attorney in New York.

Of the 15 sentences handed down in that time period for insider trading, 13 were lighter than the terms prescribed by the guidelines.

Compare that record to the sentences handed down for all cases considered by New York federal judges over roughly the same time period. Sentences in that period were lighter than suggested in 57 percent of cases, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics.

The trend has continued in 2011. Out of the 17 individuals sentenced this year in insider-trading cases brought by the U.S. Attorney in New York since August 2009, only four defendants received sentences within the guidelines.

But while sentences are lighter than guidelines suggest for inside trading, defendants are still facing significant jail time. In 2011, 15 out of 17 defendants were sentenced to prison, and many of them received prison sentences very close to the guidelines. Zvi Goffer, a former Galleon employee, for example was sentenced to 120 months, or 10 years. The guidelines called for a minimum sentence of 121 months.

Given the high-profile nature of the Rajaratnam case, some were expecting a sentence that would fall closer to the guidelines.

"I think there clearly is a difference between the way judges are willing to sentence someone convicted of insider trading and what they're willing to sentence people convicted of other kinds of securities fraud," said Michael Perino, a professor at St. John's University School of Law.

Perino said Rajaratnam's sentence was less than half the 25 years handed down to former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and the 24 years for former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling for their roles in accounting frauds at those companies.

"Maybe judges see far greater injuries arising from accounting fraud cases than they do from insider trading cases," he said. "They can see all the investors who have lost so much money. That's hard to see in an insider trading case."

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Nazri: Abolition of death penalty would depend on public opinion

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 07:44 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Public views and opinions must be taken into account concerning the proposal to abolish the death penalty in this country, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

He said any move in this direction had to come from the public as was the case when the Internal Security Act (ISA) was urged to be abolished.

"Like the ISA, when we have a lot of members of the public wanting to abolish the act, then we follow the majority.

"Public opinion is very important to us, at the moment you cannot really see whether the people are in favor of abolishing the death penalty," he told reporters after delivering the keynote address at a public event to promote the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia, here, Thursday.

Nazri said although currently there was no discussion on the immediate abolishment of the death penalty in Malaysia despite calls from some quarters, the Government was commited to re-evaluate, re-think and review the capital punishment.

Malaysia currently still practises the death penalty and as of last year, there were 114 death sentences and another 744 person on death row, while one execution was reported.

Earlier in his speech, Nazri said in his opinion the death penalty review was a timely effort, and was in line with ongoing efforts by the Government to review outdated laws and several emergency ordinances to introduce new laws which complied with the principles of human rights.

"Our task in the Government is to find the most humane and effective ways to uphold justice for our citizens and humankind in general," he said.

The public event to promote the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia was jointly organised by a delegation of the European Union, the Bar Council Malaysia and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia in conjunction with the International Day against the Death Penalty, which is held the 10th of October each year.

Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Malaysia, Vincent Piket in his welcoming remarks said, the abolition of the death penalty worldwide was one of the main objectives of the EU's human rights policy. - Bernama

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PAS will ask Hu to explain statements

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 06:09 AM PDT

Published: Thursday October 13, 2011 MYT 9:07:00 PM
Updated: Thursday October 13, 2011 MYT 9:09:06 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The PAS Central Committee will be calling up PAS Supporters Congress head Hu Pang Chaw to explain certain media statements he made which were not consistent with the party's policy.

PAS information chief Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said even though the party practised democracy in dealing with members, when it came to internal issues, they were urged to resolve them within the party.

"Undeniably PAS as a major party cannot run away from internal challenges, hence the various channels for the party to obtain feedback and explanation on any disagreeable issue," he said in a statement here Thursday.

On Wednesday Hu was reported as saying the media in the country had the right to get the real picture of what was happening in PAS, especially with regard to implementation of hudud laws. - Bernama

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Non-Muslim supporters may give up on PAS
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More operators for 1Malaysia thrift stores

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 04:56 AM PDT

Published: Thursday October 13, 2011 MYT 7:54:00 PM
Updated: Thursday October 13, 2011 MYT 7:56:56 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government will allow more operators to open stores under the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) name, said Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Cooperatives Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

"The shops must have the same layout and management style that is being used in existing KR1M stores," said Ismail Sabri.

At present, the KR1M thrift stores are run by Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd.

He said the decision would put to rest allegations, especially those circulating in blogs, that the Government was sanctioning a monopoly under the KR1M programme.

"These allegations aren't true. It is the government's wish for more people to be involved in the KR1M programe."

Mydin, however, will continue to be the sole producer of the "1Malaysia" brand of products.

"The Government is pleased with the quality of the items produced by Mydin. Until today, we have not received a complaint on their products.

"However, we also welcome other suppliers who can come up with quality products. Just come to us," said Ismail Sabri, who was in Wangsa Maju here Thursday to open the fifth KR1M store.

Related Stories:
1Malaysia Shop concept to be expanded nationwide
Shoppers stretch their ringgit at KR1M

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Flood-prone stalls in Petaling Jaya

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 04:33 AM PDT

TWO stalls in Jalan Railway 1/2, Section 1, Petaling Jaya, are prone to floods during heavy rain because of a damaged and clogged drain.

Lot 1 and 2 tenant John Chandran Pereira said four complaints had been made to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) but no action had been taken.

"The drain near the stalls are clogged and covered with undergrowth. The stalls are also lower than the drain level and I have built a brick barrier to prevent the water from flowing into the premises.

"The undergrowth on the land next the my stall is becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes and customers do not want to come to my stall.

"Rubbish is also dumped here. I have installed a fan to keep the mosquitoes away at night. I have also caught three snakes so far.

"The roof leaks during rain and is damaging my electrical appliances," he said, adding that he also had to fix the tap himself after his complaint went unattended.

Pereira said he had informed a MBPJ officer on the damage to the two stalls even before applying for a licence.

"The officer assured me that the repairs will be done before issuing my licence but only the electricity supply was connected.

Pereira's stall, which is located in a quiet corner, has also become a target for burglars.

"The burglars have broken into my stall twice and carted away the refrigerator, oven, bottled drinks, cigarettes and other utensils.

"There is a gap on top of the grille big enough for a person to squeeze through.

"MBPJ should take responsibility and do something about my complaints," he said.

MBPJ public relations officer Zainun Zakaria said they were getting contractors to repair the drain and had instructed Alam Flora to collect the rubbish in the area.

"However, tenants should take responsibility of the rubbish found in their premises," she said.

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Metro Watch

Posted: 13 Oct 2011 04:28 AM PDT


LITRAK will be undertaking road works at Puchong Intan Interchange towards Puchong Jaya/ Kuala Lumpur as part of the Puchong-Damansara Highway pavement rehabilitation exercise from today until Oct 17. It will include laying out of a new pavement. Works will be carried out from 1am to 6am. Traffic diversion will be from Putrajaya/Puchong Perdana to Puchong Jaya/Kuala Lumpur. Drivers to use the U-turn before Puchong Barat Toll Plaza towards Puchong. For enquiries call LDP helpline at 03-7494 7333 or visit


THE Public Works Department (JKR) is carrying maintenance works on the Middle Ring Road 2 until Oct 25. JKR is upgrading the drainage system to prevent flooding near the junction from FRIM (before Taman Layang-Layang). Works are carried out from 10.30am to 3.30pm and 11pm to 5am. Road resurfacing (mill and pave) works is also being carried out under the flyover near the FRIM junction until tomorrow from 11pm to 5am, For details call 03-2691 9011 or


This weekend, the Thai Buddhist Chetawan Temple in Jalan Pantai, Petaling Jaya, will host two special events, beginning with the Kuan Shih Yin Pusa Renunciation Day Prayers. The prayers will begin with the Paritta chanting and a procession. On Saturday evening, the temple will begin its Kathina programme in the Dhamma Hall. Also activities including the Tak Bart and presentation of saffron robes from 11am on Sunday. For details, call 03-7955 2443.


THIS weekend, head on to the OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2011 at Dataran Merdeka. Take part in The Tricycle Ride (100m), Mighty Savers Kids Ride (4km), Polygon Foldies Community Ride (21km), The Community Ride (21km) and The Challenge (52km). For more information visit or join the Facebook page or call the hotline 03-7724 0707.


Malaysia Glaucoma Society is organising the a forum on Preventing Blindness on Oct 15. The forum is open to all from 9am to 1pm at Wisma MCA 12 floor, Jalan Ampang Kuala Lumpur. The speaker is Prof Dr Mimiwati from UMMC. For enquiries call 012 203 5410.


The St. Michael's Institution (SMI) Alumni Association, Klang Valley will hold its Annual Charity Golf tournament at the Kelab Rahman Putra Malaysia in Sungai Buloh on Oct 29 to raise funds to help needy students at the school. The event is open to all golfers and begins with breakfast at 7am, followed by teeoff at 8am. Lunch will be served at 1pm and the winner will walk away with the Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik Challenge Trophy. Donation is RM300 per participant (RM250 for members of Kelab Rahman Putra). For details, call Siew Seng at 012- 3723326, Francis at 012-3661223 or Michael at 019-2225660. For the location, visit

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Zanotti epitome of hip

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 11:29 PM PDT

Giuseppe Zanotti's designs are fanciful and flamboyant, and they are always works of art.

THERE is a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation as guests made their way to the Giuseppe Zanotti showroom to view the designer's Autumn/Winter collection during the Milan Fashion Week earlier this year.

It's easy to be captivated as Zanotti's footwear and accessories collection embody an intensity and eclecticism that is so lush and magnetic.

There are gem-encrusted flats, super-high heels made from the most gorgeous materials, booties with metallic stiletto heels, sneakers that are both luxurious and playful.

Then, there is the riot of psychedelic colours – from neon blues to mustard yellows.

It's a very visual collection, one that revives the graphic and piquant world of the late 70s to the early 80s.

Zanotti grew up in San Mauro Pascoli, an Italian town with a long tradition in shoemaking. He began as a design apprentice before making his high fashion debut at Christian Dior. He has worked with designers such as Roberto Cavalli, Missoni and Vera Wang.

In 1994, Zanotti set up his own line; his shoes and assessories are worn by Hollywood A-listers.

The challenge for Zanotti is always to create something new and different every season, and he is always thinking of translating his ideas and inspirations in fresh ways – such as his animal print sandal.

"This shoe was born from a search for a harmonious but original combination of different hides," explains Zanotti in an interview. "I wanted a new way of interpreting the animal theme, but I had trouble finding a single print to embody my ideas."

And so the idea of mixing four different hides was born.

Zanotti's experimentation in combining different materials in his shoes has resulted in some highly stylised designs – there are super high heels made of metal and wrapped in leather, with suede and silk.

There are black python bags fastened by belts and biker buckles for dramatic contrast, and warrior-inspired jewellery with rhinestones.

It is this spirit of curiosity and innovation that drive Zanotti's creative energy.

His Autumn/Winter collection actually began with a quest to uncover "what is missing in the range of feminine shoes which already exist in any closet".

He tackled this challenge "with an adventurous and literary approach".

"It's a collection inspired by personalities such as Raymond Chandler, Léo Malet, Ed McBain, Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang, visualised by designer Raymond Loewy in exasperated hypothetical (set from the 50s to the 90s), on the background of imaginary Studebaker and Buicks (vintage vehicles) with exaggerated colours, skytrains, Coca-Cola bottles and openwork techno structures."

He is also inspired by his travels, urban spaces, art and music.

"I am listening to Nicki Minaj. I like how she is exploding with energy," says Zanotti who is brimming with ideas.

He says he could come up with hundreds more designs. He is constantly tweaking his designs, and re-looking at them.

His innovations are also not just in terms of designs, but also in the technology of making shoes more comfortable and stable. He looks at technical solutions to make his heels stable and light, so that women can "go from shopping in them, send their children to school or go clubbing with friends in them."

"Every design has a story. There are different designs within the collection and it is easy for women to pick from my collection. Designers today are not like in the 80s and 90s when they dictate what women want.

"The women today have strong personalities, and they decide for themselves what they want," says the designer whose designs are favoured by Hollywood's elite stars such as Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Rihanna.

Zanotti says a good pair of shoes is not only about the aesthetics, but also how it makes the wearer feels.

"I use silk as lining for my shoes. Silk is the most beautiful material in the land, and when a woman wears the shoes she can feel the luxurious texture of the silk on her feet."

The latest addition to Zanotti's repertoire is his take on sneakers. They represent "extreme freedom of expression, new role, new statements and creative chaos".

Zanotti has, of course, stamped his signature eclectic interpretation to sneakers, turning them from casual streetwear to high end art objects.

He uses materials like leather and suede on his sneakers, and they are also the first of his unisex line.

Giuseppe Zanotti's designs are available at his boutique in Pavillion Kuala Lumpur. Prices range from RM2,390 to RM8,690.

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Flavourful fashion with an Indian theme

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 11:28 PM PDT

For Deepavali, consider contemporary outfits that evoke the richness of India.

SAREES, sequins and shawls are the first things that come to mind when one thinks of India's influence on the world of fashion.

What many people don't realise is that inspiration from India has been sprinkling the visions of fashion mavens for centuries, and we're not just talking about traditional or ethnic attire.

From paisley designs and ornate beadwork to nehru collars and peasant skirts to khadi (handspun cotton) and linen, the South Asian touch is very visible in modern fashion worldwide. And with Deepavali just two weeks away, now's the perfect time to celebrate this trend.

Locally, however, those who crave for a bit of the Bharat in their wardrobe are often left with only a few predictable choices. One can, of course, pick up a kurti (tunic-like tops with Indian motifs) or two from the many shops and stalls around, or even go for a salwar kameez (Punjabi suit) or saree. But these are generally perceived more as "traditional wear". What about those of us who want modern or contemporary outfits that nevertheless still evoke the rich fashion possibilities of India?

This was exactly the dilemma that inspired friends Sashikala Menon and Jegadeeswari Vijayakumar to start up their own online clothing boutique, Akhil (

"We got talking about how difficult it was to find modern clothes with that Indian touch here. You see a lot of kurtis, but they often look very traditional. We really wanted something more relevant," explains Sashikala.

Starting their business in August 2010 with ready-made pieces imported from India, the duo launched clothes of their own design earlier this year, inspired by what they themselves would wear.

"We browse the Internet and various magazines for ideas, and we also look at Western designs and see how we can add some Indian elements. But most importantly, we think about what we and the women around us would want to wear," says Sashikala. "Our main aim is to be comfortable yet contemporary, and to show that you can incorporate India into your outfit without yelling out 'I'm Indian!'"

Having come up with the designs, Sashikala and Jegadeeswari then source for fabrics from India and work with a tailor there to get the pieces made.

Featuring dresses and tops in comfortable cotton, Akhil's designs blend South Asian prints with elements like batik and florals to create a modern look. Taking inspiration from the kurti, their flirty tunic dress can be worn as it is or paired with tights. In other designs, modern silhouettes are enhanced by subtle gold embellishments. Bold colours like maroon, orange and teal further add adventure to casual pieces.

If couture is your cup of chai, look no further than local fashion designer Syomir Izwa. His extensive use of pleating and draping in his creations hark back to elegant Indian queens swathed in breathtaking sarees – little wonder that he even dubbed one of his lines the "Maharani collection".

Syomir, who has been designing for eight years, debuted in the fashion industry in 2009, and has since gathered an extensive list of well-known clients, particularly for wedding couture.

The designer credits his half-Indian family background for inspiring his fascination with the subcontinent, but stresses that he wants to create Indian-inspired looks that are more modern and less ethnically-specific.

"The Indian inspiration can be done in many ways, it doesn't have to just be about using saree fabric or beading," Syomir says. "I try to explore pleating and draping. The way the saree is draped, its movements, can be found in my dresses and even my baju kurung. I even use pleating in harem pants or dress pants to add detail."

He also finds creative impetus in legends and stories from India; a gorgeously-draped hot orange-and-gold modern kurung, for example, is inspired by the story of Prince Siddharta. Other designs may not boast an immediate Indian connection, but hint at subtle links, such as a sultry navy blue evening gown which takes its silhouette and draping from a saree.

Local online retailer Indifashion (indifash, on the other hand, offers outfits that boast a distinctly Indian look but with a modern flair. Most attractive are their range of versatile tunic dresses, which can also be worn with tights or jeans. Imported from India, their Indo Western range features uniquely Indian fabrics and embellishments on tops and dresses that eschew the usual kurti silhouette for more contemporary styles like baby-doll or A-line cuts.

Typically Indian detailing like metallic threads, beadwork, embroidery and busy prints, are used to jazz up the design further, such as a fawn-coloured dress in crushed art silk, embellished with green and gold fabric and metallic embroidery. In other designs, summery floral dresses are giving an Indian touch with the addition of subtle metallic fabric or embroidery.

For Leslie Variyan, designer of homegrown label Variante, the Indian influence in his creations is not a conscious effort, but rather, something that flows naturally.

"I'm Indian and I think the saree is one sexy outfit! I also want to bring a little culture into the modern world. So while my designs are not meant to look like sarees, they are often inspired by them in some way," shares Leslie, who established Variante in 2005 after being in the local fashion industry for 14 years.

Leslie's designs run the gamut from chic tops and pants to casual dresses to flowing evening gowns. Some boldly declare their Indian roots, like a dark green animal-print, one-shouldered gown that is obviously saree-inspired, while others whisper of ethnic touches, such as a chic teal top with orange accents and unstructured white pants.

Known for his flowy, ethereal design aesthetic, he says his inspirations from India are most apparent in his use of colour.

"My choice of colours is often bold and daring, I don't like to stop halfway," says Leslie, whose boutique is located in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. "I love that about India, only they are daring enough to combine turquoise and fuchsia or orange and green!"

His use of heavy beadwork, too, is reminiscent of the stone- and bead-encrusted finery of India.

"Look at Indian jewellery. It's never just one pearl, it's always a few things at once. Beads and jewels are often very big, and you can never have too much. I love bringing that glamour into my creations," explains Leslie.

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