Sabtu, 29 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Chilly, by design

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 11:17 PM PDT

ALICE Nguyen might come across as the Simon Cowell of the interior design world. One of three judges on The Apartment, a reality penthouse-decorating television show shot in Kuala Lumpur, the American interior designer is no-nonsense and rarely smiles onscreen. She is also known for chilling lines directed at offending competitors, such as "the mood of this room is so cold, I wanted to get a fur coat".

Off the small screen, however, Vietnam-born Nguyen, 36, is friendly and forthcoming.

"As the only interior designer on the show, I had to be the one to take charge," she says of her persona on her TV debut.

The other judges are American host Kahi Lee and British architect Martin Haeger. The trio preside over three teams which are assigned brand new penthouses and have to out-design, out-shop and out-decorate one another within a tight deadline. The grand prize is a Kuala Lumpur condominium worth RM530,000.

The eight-part series, produced by Singapore-based production company Imagine Group, debuted on AXN channel (StarHub Channel 511) on Oct 27 at 8.10pm.

Now based in Singapore, Nguyen was beaming when Life! met her at Ink Bar. She had designed the bar with red leather seats and metal chain drapes in 2003, as a senior designer with Hirsch Bedner & Associates – the renowned interior design firm that sent her to its Singapore office eight years ago.

For the last five years, she has been running her own design firm, Maison. Her work in Singapore also includes nightclub Shanghai Dolly and the Wine Bar & Bistro at St James Power Station and high-end residences and showflats, such as one for Scotts Square with FBEYE International interior design firm in 2006.

Nguyen landed The Apartment gig when a friend referred her to the show's director. On her first TV appearance, she says: "It is very exciting but can be exhausting, too." The eight episodes were filmed over three-and-a-half weeks.

Back home in the United States, she has designed boutique showrooms in Los Angeles' celebrity-favourite Robertson Boulevard, as well as in San Francisco's hip Union Street.

On designing commercial spaces such as nightclubs, she says: "It is all business and I have to be more disciplined about imposing my views." As for residential projects, "you must be patient".

She adds: "You also have to have humility and not go in with arrogance. You have to be respectful and have to accommodate the client."

Regardless of the type of project, the most important thing is to be able to click with the client.

The ideal client is someone who is "decisive but open-minded and not a first-time renovator". Those new to home renovations usually do not know what they want, she explains.

The worst type of clients? "Housewives, because they have too much time on their hands and are too emotional with the project," says Nguyen, who has spent 11 years in the industry.

The trick to dealing with difficult clients, she says, is to be polite. "I'm a diplomatic person. I'm committed to the family for at least a year, so I pick and choose my words."

Still, sometimes this interior designer, who is single, finds herself having to act as a marriage counsellor. The wife may have a certain idea, while the husband has another and communication breaks down.

Nguyen, who studied interior design at the University of California, Los Angeles, describes her style as modern classic, but adds that there is no style that she cannot do. Designing homes in Singapore, however, comes with its own set of restrictions.

"I have to be more climate conscious here. I can't have full carpets or warm upholstery."

She is all for clients who bring in pictures of interiors that they like, so she gets a better feel of what they want. However, she frowns on those who copy showflats wholesale.

By all means, take storage, kitchen and bathroom ideas from such model units, "but the rest of your home, should be a reflection of yourself. Don't copy everything," she advises. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

The Apartment airs on Thursdays at 8.10pm on AXN (Astro Ch 701).

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Aaron overcomes fever and chicken pox to book Games ticket

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 04:46 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: National bowler Aaron Kong does not give up easily when the chips are down.

And the anchor of the team displayed his never-say-die attitude when he overcame a bout of fever and chicken pox to win a ticket to represent the country at the SEA Games for the third consecutive time.

The competition will be held at Bowling Jaya Ancol in Jakarta, from Nov 14-20.

Now that he is in the team, the 26-year-old Penangite is determined to help the team reclaim their status as the best men's outfit in the region.

"I was quite worried when I was down with chicken pox just a week before the selection trials. I missed out on training sessions but I still took part in the trials and managed to secure a place," said Aaron.

"So far, it has not been a great year for me. I have not won any titles this year but I am determined to end my medal drought at the Jakarta Games.

"I was tinkering with my approach in bowling this year. I dropped my wrist guard but it did not help much. But I continued to work on my game and now I feel more confident with my swing," added the 2006 Doha Asian Games gold medallist.

Aaron was a member of Malaysia's gold medal winning team at the 2007 Korat SEA Games but he failed to help them retain the team title at the last Games in Laos two years ago.

Aaron said that the men were all driven to do well – especially after the demise of Asian youth champion Khoo Beng Khai.

"Beng Khai was one of the bowlers during our selection trials. It is hard to believe that he has gone but the men bowlers will not forget him. In fact, we are bent on winning a gold medal in the team event for him. It is time to bring back the team gold," said Aaron.

The others in the men's team are Adrian Ang, Alex Liew, Mohd Syafiq Ridhwan Abdul Malek, Zulmazran Zulkifli and Mohd Nur Aiman Khairuddin. The notable absentee is seasoned campaigner Daniel Lim, who did not make the cut.

"We have a strong team. Our main challengers will be hosts Indonesia. We also cannot undermine our rivals from Thailand, the Philippines and, of course, Singapore. The coaches are pushing us in training to prepare us for a challenging time."

National chief coach Holloway Cheah has set a three-gold medal target for both the men's and women's teams although the lanes in Jakarta will be quite tricky for the Malaysians.

The Malaysians will be in Jakarta a week earlier to fine-tune and familiarise themselves with the lane conditions.

The women named for the SEA Games are World Championships singles gold medallist Jacqueline Jenelee Sijore, Esther Cheah, Sharon Koh, Zatil Iman Abdul Ghani, Zandra Aziela Ibrahim Hakimi, Sin Li Jane and Dayang Khairuniza Dhiyana.

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Shooter Nur Suryani is our flag-bearer at the SEA Games

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 04:46 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Shooter Nur Suryani Taibi has been given the honour of being the flag-bearer for the Malaysian contingent at the SEA Games in Indonesia from Nov 11-22.

Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi confirmed the appointment of Suryani as the first woman shooter to lead the Malaysian challenge at the biennial Games.

The 28-year-old Suryani won the spot ahead of many others because of her exceptionally good form last year.

Suryani partnered Nur Ayuni Farhana to bag the gold in the 10m air rifle pairs at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games last October.

She was also a silver medallist in the 10m air rifle at the Sydney leg of the World Cup series last year and the first Malaysian shooter to win an Asian Games medal – bagging the bronze in the same discipline in Guangzhou last November.

Suryani is under the Road to London programme and has been earmarked to peak at the Asian Shooting Championships in Doha in February. Hopes are high that she will be the first woman shooter to compete in the Olympic Games.

She is expected to be one of Malaysia's gold medal contributors at the SEA Games.

Malaysia's chef-de-mission Datuk Mohd Naim has targeted a total of 60 gold medals.

Said Kok Chi: "The NSC (National Sports Council) proposed Suryani's name and we (the OCM) have no objections. The shooter has achieved some good results," said Kok Chi.

The appointment of Suryani is also because the opening ceremony will be held in Palembang on Nov 11. Shooting is one of the 22 sports contested in Palembang while the remaining 24 will be held in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, the NSC will hold a five-day centralised training for all the SEA Games-bound shuttlers at Putrajaya, beginning tomorrow.

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Malaysia may not send their best taekwondo exponents

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 04:46 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: A change of dates for the Asian taekwondo qualifiers for the Olympics could result in Malaysia not having their best fighters for the Indonesia SEA Games.

Thailand were scheduled to host the Asian continental qualifying tournament for the Olympics in Bangkok from Nov 4-6 but it has now been postponed indefinitely due to massive flooding in the country.

National coach R. Dhanaraj, who returned home with the squad after a three-week stint in South Korea, said the latest development could result in the best fighters opting out of the SEA Games competition in Jakarta.

"We've just been told that the Asian qualifiers have been postponed to a later date," he said.

"The actual dates have not been fixed but it looks likely to be after the SEA Games competition, which will be from Nov 12-15.

"If this is the case, we will not be sending the four exponents gearing up for the Olympic qualifiers to the SEA Games. Their priority is not the SEA Games but to do well at the Asian zone Olympic qualifiers.

"They could get injured at the SEA Games and it could jeorpardise their plans for the Olympic qualifiers."

The top two finishers in the four respective weight classes will qualify for London from the Asian zone.

The two men picked for the Olympic qualifiers in Bangkok are Ryan Chong (flyweight) and Afifuddin Sidek (lightweight).

Elaine Teo will take a shot at earning a third consecutive Olym-pic appearance in the women's lightweight division while Nurul Ashfalina will go in for the flyweight.

"We hope at least one will make it to the Olympics. I am hoping Ryan or Afifuddin will make it to the Olympics as none of the men have every made it," he said.

"They did well in training and enjoyed the benefits of sparring with the Korean Olympic team and also exponents from the army side."

Taekwondo was accepted as a medal sport in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and Malaysia have never failed to be represented by at least one representative so far.

Lee Wan Yuen was the first Malaysian to qualify for Sydney in 2000 while Elaine made it to Athens four years later.

Elaine and Che Chew Chan made the grade in Beijing three years ago.

Che Chew, who delivered the only Malaysian gold medal in taekwondo at the last SEA Games in Laos, has since quit the sport.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf


Posted: 28 Oct 2011 07:12 PM PDT

18 Minutes: Find your focus, master distraction and get the right things done

Author: Peter Bregman

Publisher: Business Plus

This is a collection of the author's column in Harvard Business Review. Peter Bregman shows how busy people can cut through all the daily clutter and distractions and find a way to focus on key items that are truly the top priorities in our lives. He works from the premise that the best way to combat constant and distracting interruptions is to create productive distractions of one's own. He mixes first-person insights with case studies, and provides pathways that help guide readers – in 18 minutes or less.

An Idea a Day: 365 great business ideas for each day of the year

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Business

A simple but potentially powerful book for anyone seeking inspiration on a daily basis in the challenging and difficult world of business. The ideas are extracted from the world's best companies and managers. From marketing to public relations, presentations to time management, sales to writing that great copy, each idea is described and is followed by advice on how it can be applied to the reader's own business situation.

Business Reports for Busy People

Author: Greg Holden

Publisher: Advantage Quest

This is a wide-ranging guide offering a wide range of samples and templates that can be customised to produce professional-looking, clear and concise reports for virtually any need. Some of these include progress reports, time accounting reports, business plans, feasibility studies, expense reports and statistical samplings. Helping entrepreneurs communicate with numbers has been a focus for Greg Holden since he founded his own business in 1993.

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Entertaining take on financial issues

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 07:11 PM PDT

Michael Lewis takes you on a 'financial-disaster tourism', visiting nations like Iceland, Greece and Ireland.

Title: Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour
Author: Michael Lewis
Publisher: Allen Lane (An Imprint of Penguin Books)

It is sometimes far harder to review a book you like than one you feel indifferent or ambivalent about. A good book is one that offers unique insight; that piques your interest in topics outside of your periphery. A good book, like Michael Lewis' Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour, is one that you want to share to others.

Lewis has been having a bit of a bull run in recent times. His last outing, The Big Short, was touted by the Guardian as "Magnificent ... a perfect storm of brilliant writer meeting a big subject." It also received rave reviews from the likes of The Economist, the Financial Times, the Times, the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard, among others.

Films based on his previous books, like Moneyball and The Blind Side have brought Lewis wider success. Liar's Poker, based on his short-lived Wall Street career as a Salomon Brothers trader in the 80s, may finally start shooting at the studios. There are also a couple of television series in the works.

In Boomerang, Lewis embarks on a bout of "financial-disaster tourism"; visiting nations like Iceland, Greece and Ireland that have, unfortunately, been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Once you have invested in the first chapter, you recognise that there is no better guide than Lewis on this "Meltdown Tour." He is, at once, a wily interviewer and witty writer – possessing rare gifts that enable him to effortlessly enlighten the uninitiated on statistics and markets; unearth some truly fascinating stories of our financial times; and help us see the funny side of human folly.

Reading more like an entertaining travelogue than a financial chronicle, Boomerang begins with the story of Kyle Bass, a Texas hedge fund manager who is buying guns and gold bricks. Bass was one of the investors interviewed by Lewis when he was working on The Big Short – one of a handful who had made their fortunes from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. Bass had consequently predicted that the financial crisis was not over but "was simply being smothered by the full faith and credit of rich Western governments."

Bass and his colleagues had a shiny new investment thesis that foreshadowed the collapse of whole countries. They rationalised that since 2002, there had been a false boom in much of the rich, developed world as what appeared to be economic growth was activity fueled by people borrowing money they probably could not afford to repay.

Accumulation of debt

By their rough count, worldwide debts – public and private – had more than doubled since 2002; from US$84 trillion to US$195 trillion. Bass comments: "We've never had this accumulation of debt in world history." Moreover, the big banks that had extended much of this credit (albeit rather recklessly) were no longer treated as private enterprises but as extensions of their local governments, sure to be bailed out in a crisis.

Their new investment thesis noted that the subprime mortgage was more symptom than cause. The deeper social and economic problems that gave rise to it remained. They noted that "the moment investors woke up to this reality, they would cease to think of big Western governments as essentially risk-free and demand higher rates of interest to lend to them." With rising interest rates on their borrowings, these governments would plunge further into debt, leading to further rises in the interest rates they were charged to borrow.

In a few especially alarming cases – Greece, Ireland, Japan – it would not take much of a rise in interest rates for budgets to be consumed entirely by interest payments on debt. The moment financial markets realised this, investor sentiment would shift. The moment investor sentiments shifted, these governments would default. Lewis points out that "the financial crisis of 2008 was suspended only because investors believed that governments could borrow whatever they needed to rescue their banks." However, he asks, "What happened when governments themselves ceased to be credible?"

Lewis shared that Boomerang began quite accidently, as what started as disbelief in Bass' initial views that developed countries could default, soon morphed into a deep curiousity about Bass' powers of prediction as the financial world began to change; very much in the manner Kyle Bass imagined it might.

Entire countries started to go bust. A question nagged at Lewis: How did a hedge fund manager in Dallas even think to imagine these strange events?

Two-and-a-half years later after his initial interview with Bass, in the summer of 2011, Lewis discovers the answer: Kyle Bass had played the board game Risk as a kid.

Bass shared that "I love playing Risk. And I would always put all of my armies on Iceland, because you could attack anyone from there." The belief that he could attack anyone from Iceland had led Bass to learn whatever he could about Iceland, and to pay special attention when something happened to Iceland. It turned out that Iceland was a good place to start.

Post the prologue, what Lewis ends up uncovering in his subsequent chapters on Iceland (Wall Street on the Tundra), Greece (And They Invented Math), Ireland (Ireland's Original Sin), Germany (The Secret Lives of Germans) and California (Too Fat to Fly) may not necessarily be the main stories, but are invariably, the most interesting stories. The stories, reading like the best kind of fiction, are peppered with colourful characters, amusing anecdotes; and sometimes quite shocking and rather strange insights.

In cataloguing the case studies in each mentioned country, Lewis seeks to attribute the differing causes of economic chaos and their outcomes to each country's distinctive national characteristics. He asks what each country would do when confronted in a "dark room filled with money." He points out why Icelanders with a culture steeped in macho risk-taking, walking off their fishing trawlers and straight into making million-dollar currency bets, was a disaster waiting to happen.

Through Lewis, we vicariously visit a Greek monastery run by money-savvy monks that managed to persuade the government to parlay a worthless lake into a billion-dollar property empire – resulting in a national scandal of sorts, no less. We also see how feuding Greeks who distrust one another in a nation built on nepotism and graft; recklessly avoid tax payment and collection. We witness how the Irish, as a nation beset by a history of oppression and exploitation where landowning was the ultimate escape from the past, built more shiny new homes than there would ever be people.

In the final chapter, Lewis looks closer to home to California, used as a starting point to highlight the extent to which America's national debts are now eclipsed by those of its states and cities; where the amounts owed to public-sector workers across the country are larger than it will be ever be able to pay.

His almost surreal chat over a bicycle ride with ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reveals a political system seemingly designed to frustrate sensible, apolitical attempts to fix things and unsustainable behaviour all around, where, as Bloomberg News puts it, "parasites are killing their hosts."

Want to travel from your armchair to the New Third World? Buy this book today.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Navy and MMEA rescue hijacked oil tanker

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 05:09 AM PDT

KUANTAN: The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) rescued a tanker with RM12mil worth of oil and gas cargo from a group of armed pirates in the South China Sea on Friday.

Commander of Naval Region 1 First Admiral Datuk Mohamad Roslan Mohamad Ramli said the 19 crew of MT Nautica Johor Bahru were rescued at 9.10pm after they were given clearance by Indonesia's Sea Security Coordinating Board to pursue the vessel into Indonesian waters.

He said the ship was earlier hijacked in the Strait of Singapore, near Batu Puteh about 5.30am on Thursday en route from Malacca to Sibu, Sarawak.

"The shipping company suspected something amiss after they failed to make contact with the vessel and lodged a report with MMEA at 9.20am Friday," he told reporters Saturday.

Present was East Region Maritime enforcement chief First Admiral Nasir Adam.

Mohamad Roslan said the agency's Dauphin M7 002 aircraft spotted the ship 85 nautical miles east of Pekan, Pahang about 3.20pm Friday heading towards the Anambas Islands in Indonesia.

Three RMN ships, KD Jebat, KD Lekiu and KD Kelantan which were part of a naval exercise off the coast of Tioman Island, located 60 nautical miles south of the hijacked ship, were ordered to mount a rescue operation, he said.

More in Sunday Star

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Johor Sultan urges students not to take part in illegal rallies

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 03:41 AM PDT

BATU PAHAT: Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has advised students and graduates not to be involved in illegal rallies that can threaten national stability.

Sultan Ibrahim, who is Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) chancellor, said they should be grateful for the chance to garner knowledge instead of taking part in anti-government political activities.

"I will not hesitate to resign as the chancellor of UTHM should any of our students be involved in such activities, as it is better than having my name tainted by such acts that also shames the university's reputation," he said when officiating at UTHM's 11th convocation on Saturday.

A total of 2,245 graduates received their scrolls at the convocation - nine for PhD, 164 Master's degrees and 1,832 Bachelor's degrees.

Sultan Ibrahim also said the other issue highlighted in the media was female students getting involved in immoral activities to get rich quickly.

In this context, he reminded students and graduates to hold steadfastly to their religious beliefs and strive to make their parents and the university proud.

He also urged the UTHM administration to expedite the construction of a campus for aeronautics students in Tanjung Labuh here.

"Delaying this project will adversely affect our offer of aeronautics studies and incur supplementary costs," he added. BERNAMA

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Ismail Sabri: Malay can become Asean's lingua franca

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 03:35 AM PDT

BERA: The Malay language can become the lingua franca of Asean as it is spoken by over three-quarters of residents in the region.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the language was not only widely used in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, but also in parts of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"We hope champions of the Malay language can work on making Bahasa Melayu the official language for Asean countries," he told reporters after launching the Bera-level 2011 National Language Month here today.

Ismail Sabri, who is Bera MP, said Bahasa Melayu had once been the language of commerce during the Malacca Sultanate.

"However, this does not mean we are putting English and other native languages aside, instead it is an effort to uphold Bahasa Melayu in the region," he added.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Michael Douglas says can't forget being told of cancer

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 05:30 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Veteran actor Michael Douglas said in a recent interview with Alec Baldwin that he will never forget when he was first told he had late-stage throat cancer in 2010.

The 66-year-old "Fatal Attraction" actor, who was diagnosed with the disease in August, underwent radiation treatment and chemotherapy and in January 2011, announced the tumor was gone. But five months earlier, the story was different.

"I'll never forget that moment when he (the doctor) looked up at me and looked back down. I knew, and he said 'Well, I guess we're going to have to take a biopsy, see there's a polyp here,' it was on my tongue. Two days later, he called me back and said 'you've got cancer,'" Douglas told Baldwin in a podcast posted earlier this week for New York public radio station WNYC.

Douglas said that just after filming "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" his throat felt "a little sore," but he thought it was from the stress of portraying financier Gordon Gekko, the role that earned him an Oscar in 1987's "Wall Street."

"I thought maybe it was from tension, from the part, where you haven't placed your voice, where you're swallowing your words and you speak from the back of your throat," he said. "I had a little bit of a sore gum and so I saw doctors."

He underwent seven weeks of treatments that cleared the cancer and now he has this advice for others: "the thing with cancer is that you want to get it as early as you can."

Douglas also touched on coming to terms with his eldest son Cameron's history of drug abuse and his jail sentence in 2010 for dealing methamphetamine and cocaine and possessing heroin.

"I think as far as drug addiction, your peer group plays a huge part of that," said Douglas. "In my oldest son's case, there was no end, until he was incarcerated."

After taking time to recover from cancer treatments, Douglas will next be seen in the title role of "Liberace," a film based on the life of the famous American pianist with Matt Damon playing his on-screen lover.

"Liberace was a lovely guy," said the actor. "I haven't played a lot of nice guys."

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

MPSJ strikes against illegal ads

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 04:31 AM PDT

THE war against illegal advertisements continues as the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) organised an operation to remove the bunting and stickers in three areas yesterday.

Divided into three teams, about 40 MPSJ staff members from the management services, enforcement and corporate planning departments headed to SS14, SS15 and SS19 to tear down advertisements that did not bear the permit stickers.

As with many other areas in the Klang Valley, signboards, lamp posts and TNB substations in these three commercial areas are plagued with illegal advertisements.

A total of 875 advertisements were removed in the operation.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh, who requested for the operation, said the council needed to have a task force to tackle the problem regularly.

She said an increase in requests for financial assistance at her service centre showed that there are potential "customers" for loan sharks in Subang Jaya.

"I have also seen teens being hired to put up the ah long advertisements," she said.

MPSJ councillor Dr Loi Kheng Min questioned the validity of the serial numbers printed on some banners in lieu of the permit stickers. "This practice is not allowed. The numbers are just the reference numbers on the applications," he said.

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Metro Watch

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 04:26 AM PDT


The Malaysian Institute of Art, Department of Music will be staging The Odyssey of Life on Nov 16 from 3pm to 4.30pm as a tribute to Low Bee Eng. An evening of classical, traditional and contemporary music will be presented by lecturers, Ang Mei Foong, Neo Hup Hiang as well as current students and alumnus. They will be delivering a host of solos and duet performances on singing, guitar, percussion, ensembles and choral singing. It will be held at Malaysian Institute of Art, Multipurpose Hall, 3rd Floor, 294 – 299, Jalan Bandar 11, Taman Melawati, Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free and details call 03-4106 4697 (Lok/Saliza).


Tropicana Medical Centre is collaborating with Friends of Kota Damansara, Rotary Club of Gombak and Petaling Jaya City Council to organise a Community Care Carnival to raise funds for the children residing in the low-cost PPR flats in Section 8, Kota Damansara on Nov 13 from 10am to 4pm at Topicana Medical Centre. The funds will be used to maintain tuition centres, upgrade the existing playground and facilities. For details, call 03-6287 1106 (Phoebe).


Sidewalk astronomy night today from 8pm to 10pm at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa is a programme where all the astronomers will get together and set up their telescopes for night observation in an open area to the public. This programme provides people the opportunity to see the celestial objects with their own eyes through telescopes. For details, call 03-2273 5484.


The first ever Heart Care Programme to prevent heart diseases or reverse coronary artery disease will be conducted in Malaysia from Nov 5 to 9 at Resort Pantai Cinta Berahi, Kota Baru. For details, call 017-291 0928 (Celia) or e-mail


Metro Toastmaster meet every second and fourth Thursdays of the month in Vistana Hotel at 7pm. Toastmasters help people to improve their communication skills in thinking, hearing and speaking confidently. For details, call 016-332 2973 (Mohammad Shukur).


Free Sudoku Clinic at Senior Citizens Association of Selangor &FT's Bangunan Secita, No. 4A, Jalan SS5D/6, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya on Oct 31 from 9am to 10.30am. All are welcome. For details, call 019-311 8174 (Lim) or 016-916 0033.


Shelter Home for Children, a charitable organisation, has come out with colourful calendars for 2012, themed "Children are a precious gift from God" and it is for sale at RM10 each. For details, call 03-7955 0663 (Edwin or Brian).


Buddhist Gem Fellowship (BGM) is organising a Food & Fun Fair on Nov 13 from 9am to 3pm to be held at Yuk Chai School in SS24/1 Taman Megah in aid of BGM's new building expansion plan. For details, call 012-351 7615 (Mei Joon).

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Cyclists take to the heart of Kuantan to promote activity

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 03:50 AM PDT

SOME 300 cyclists "invaded" the heart of Kuantan recently, in what was actually a show of support for the state government's effort to promote cycling as a leisure activity as well as a healthy form of exercise.

Families, friends and members of the public as young as four years old took to the streets to join in the latest lifestyle craze.

The "Kuantan Townride" was officially flagged off by state Culture, Arts, Heritage and Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Shariff who led the group to cover a 7km route.

Other riders included Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) president Datuk Zulkifli Yaacob, Pahang Tourism Ministry office director Idros Yahya, Bukit Fraser Development Corp general manager Datuk Mohd Hanafiah Abdul Mutalib, his deputy Ishak Mokhtar and several media representatives.

Some of the riders family members also joined in the ride.

The cyclists were accompanied by traffic police throughout their journey.

The group cycled through Jalan Gambang, passing by Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital before proceeding to Jalan Mahkota, Jalan Teluk Sisek, Jalan Beserah, Jalan Tun Ismail (near the East Coast Mall) and entered Jalan Lim Hoe Lek, Jalan Bukit Ubi, Jalan Wong Ah Jang and Jalan Penjara before completing the ride at Taman Esplanade.

Shafiq Fauzan said the activity was part of the state's event called "Bicycle Mania" which is going to be promoted as a tourist attraction.

"The Kuantan Townride started at 8am and lasted for a few hours. Cyclists were allowed to roam the streets of Kuantan without having to worry about traffic, since certain sections of the roads were closed during that time," he said after the ride.

He added that the objective of organising the event was to popularise cycling among Kuantan residents.

"Not only is it good for the health, but we can also spend more time with the family. Sometimes, we are too busy with our work and we should take time off to be with our family. We can instill the love of cycling in our youngsters as well," he said.

Shafiq Fauzan also said the event would be held twice a month with the next rides scheduled on Nov 28, and Dec 4 and 18.

He assured those keen to take part in the rides that their safety was a top priority when cycling in town as the police and local authorities will work together to ensure things go smoothly.

"For their safety, we will have the police and MPK personnel helping to ensure smooth traffic flow as we do not want the event to disrupt other people's daily lives," he said.

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A-G’s report lists faults and cost overruns for Senai-Desaru Expressway

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 03:50 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Despite the land acquisition costs for the Senai-Desaru Expressway project in Johor ballooning from RM365mil to RM740.6mil, the highway has been found to be unsatisfactory and a danger to road users.

According to the Auditor-General's Report, among the reasons for the doubling of land acquisition costs were the compensation payment which exceeded market prices, high injurious affection and severance payments, and interest of 8% due to late repayments.

The completed 77km-Senai Desaru Highway, worth RM1.37bil, was also found not to be in accordance with specifications, resulting in damage to the road surface and endangering road users.

"Although the project for Package 3 was 100% completed in April, the road surface is undulating and river protection has not been built on the Sungai Selat Mendana, Sungai Layang, Sungai Papan, Sungai Semenchu and Sungai Chemaran.

"Revetment protection has yet to be constructed along the Pulau Juling Highway causing soil erosion along the area and pollution to the mangrove swamps," the report said.

The construction agreement for the project was signed between the Federal Government and the concession company on July 31, 2004, with the intention of linking Johor Baru to the Desaru tourist area, and to reduce the congestion on the Pasir Gudang Highway.

The report also found that the statistics prepared by the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA), which regulates the project management of the highway, showed that the actual number of vehicles using the highway was less than the traffic forecast by the concession company (which was approved by the Road Planning Division of the Public Works Ministry in December 2001).

The actual traffic volume achieved was only 1.9% of the forecast for three months in 2009, and 8.3% in 2010.

The report also found that the concession company had failed to complete the construction work in the stipulated period and did not maintain the highway satisfactorily.

"The concession company has yet to take action to resolve the non-compliance reports issued by the MHA," the report said, adding that delays in completing the project had resulted in delays for the Government receiving the income of 20% of the profits of the toll collection.

The report then recommended for MHA to review the feasibility studies done by the concession company to ensure that the facts presented were accurate, and to take into account realistic land acquisition costs to avoid unnecessary significant cost increases, and for the concession agreement to be reviewed thoroughly.

The Treasury Department said that, although the initial planning had been done thoroughly, the land conversion factor as well as the development order by the state authority had contributed to the spike in land acquisition costs.

"This is because the Government had to pay a high compensation rate on buildings which had already been built," the Treasury said, adding that the acquisition cost was first estimated in 2002, while Valuation and Property Services Department had valued the land based on rates as at November 2004, which was higher than in 2002.

"To prevent this from recurring, allocation for land acquisition will be capped for highway privatisation projects.

"If the land acquisition cost exceeds the capped amount, then the additional cost for the land acquisition should be borne by the concession company," the report stated.

On the issue of the undulating road surface, the Treasury said all 15 problematic locations had been identified and the report for the repair work had also been submitted to MHA on April 29.

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Pilot project for vocational training

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 03:50 AM PDT

SINGAPORE: A total of 50 schools have been selected to carry out a pilot project offering a subject on basic vocational training for students entering secondary school, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, also said the subject would be offered to students in Form One to Form Three beginning next year and would be on a voluntary basis.

"We will issue them with certificates and if they want to continue after that, they can pursue vocational training until diploma level," he said, adding that the subject would be taught during school hours.

He said the ministry had adequate manpower to teach the subject.

Muhyiddin reiterated that this project was in line with plans to carry out a transformation of the existing vocational training model being used in the country.

He added that the ministry was keen to learn from Singapore's model as, presently, 20% of those entering the republic's schooling system opted for vocational training.

"At the moment, 70% of their vocational courses are based on practical applications while 30% involves theory.

"Although the Singaporean model is different, we are interested to learn from them as they started early," he said during a press conference after his two-day official visit to the island nation recently.

While in Singapore, he visited the Institute of Technical Education College West to find out more about its vocational training.

During his trip, Muhyiddin had inspected the Tuas South Incineration Plant.

He said Malaysia would have to follow Singapore's steps to build such incinerators as part of its long-term measures to manage solid waste in the country.

"Back home we have a lot of challenges, especially managing people's concerns whenever we decide to build such a plant.

"But whatever system we use, it will be the best as in Singapore. They not only dispose of their waste this way, but also generate electricity with it," he added.

On other matters discussed during the visit, Muhyiddin said all issues agreed by both countries, especially with regards to the handing over of KTMB land in Tanjung Pagar, the handing over of the Singapore water treatment plant to Johor and the development of property projects, were proceeding as planned.

"One issue that both parties have agreed to take to a mediator is the development charges imposed on certain pieces of land in Singapore," he said.

Earlier, at dinner with about 250 Malaysians living in Singapore, Muhyiddin called for citizens to return home and contribute their skills to the country's development.

He said the country was in need to professionals and those with these skills should think about returning to Malaysia.

"It is good that you have served the Singaporean community. Now it is time to think about Malaysia.

"There are many avenues for you, especially through Talent Corp," he said in his speech during the dinner.

Muhyiddin added that talent is needed to fill at least three million jobs that will be created through the various economic and transformation models being carried out by the government.

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