Selasa, 1 November 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Syria says reaches deal with Arab League on unrest


BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria said on Tuesday it had reached agreement with an Arab League committee tasked with finding a way to end seven months of unrest and starting a dialogue between President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents.

People attend a rally to show support for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zour city November 1, 2011, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. (REUTERS/ Sana/Handout)

State media reported "agreement regarding a final document on the situation in Syria", without giving details, saying an official announcement would be made at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday.

But a senior Arab League official said the organisation was still awaiting a response from Damascus to proposals for halting the bloodshed, which activists said continued on Tuesday with two civilians shot dead by Assad's forces in Homs and two soldiers killed by army deserters in an ambush.

One activist said gunmen dragged nine people, all of them from Assad's minority Alawite sect, from a bus on a road between the cities of Homs and Hama, and killed them.

The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown on an uprising which erupted in March against his rule, inspired by revolutions which have toppled three Arab leaders this year.

Most Syrian opposition figures reject dialogue with authorities while the violence continues, and one activist said he feared any agreement in Cairo would give Assad a green light to continue his military campaign to crush dissent.

The United States, which has imposed sanctions on Syria's oil industry and key state businesses in response to Assad's crackdown, said that if Syria's accepted and implemenetd the Arab League's proposals it would be "very welcome".

But, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a briefing in Washington, "we have had a lot of promises of reform and only violence in terms of the action that we have seen from the Assad regime. So let's wait and see: a) whether we really have a deal here and b) whether that deal is implemented."

Syrian authorities blame militants who it says are armed and financed from abroad for the violence, saying they have killed 1,100 members of the security forces.

Arab League ministers met Syrian officials in Qatar on Sunday to seek a way to end the bloodshed.

Arab diplomats said the ministers proposed that Syria release immediately prisoners held since February, withdraw security forces from the streets, permit deployment of Arab League monitors and start a dialogue with the opposition.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, whose country heads the Arab League ministerial committee, also said Assad must launch serious reforms if Syria were to avoid further violence.

A Lebanese official with close ties to the government in Damascus said Syria had put forward its own proposals to the Arab League.

"The Syrian authorities want the opposition to drop weapons, the Arab states to end their funding for the weapons and the opposition, and an end to the media campaign against Syria," the official told Reuters.

It was not clear how much those demands were reflected in the final agreement announced by Syria's state media.


Omar Idlibi, a member of the grassroots Local Coordination Committee and member of the National Council, said the opposition wanted to see details of the agreement.

"We fear that this agreement is another attempt to give the regime a new chance to crush this revolution and kill more Syrians," he said.

"It helps the Syrian regime to remain in power while the demands of the people are clear in terms of toppling the regime and its unsuitability even to lead a transitional period."

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, speaking before the Syrian announcement, said the Syrian leadership was "using the power of the weapon in its hand to try to silence the people".

Erdogan, once a close ally of Assad's, said Syria had taken their alliance for granted and ignored Turkish advice on how to respond to the protests which began with calls for reform but now demand an end to four decades of Assad family rule.

"The Syrian people will achieve the results of that glorious resistance," he told a meeting of his AK Party in parliament. "The people of Syria will secure themselves their rights and freedoms."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Arab League proposal offered both sides in Syria the chance to "decide their own future through national dialogue, national reconciliation, peacefully without resorting to violence".

Lavrov, speaking in Abu Dhabi, also said Russia would not allow NATO's military intervention in Libya -- which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi -- to be repeated in Syria.

Protesters in Syria have increasingly called for foreign intervention, although NATO has repeatedly said it has no plans for military action in Syria.

Assad told Russian television on Sunday he would cooperate with the opposition, but in another interview he warned Western powers they would cause an "earthquake" in the Middle East if they intervened in Syria, after protesters demanded outside protection to stop the killing of civilians.

Syria sits at the heart of the volatile Middle East, sharing borders with Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.

"It is the faultline, and if you play with the ground, you will cause an earthquake," Assad said. "Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?"

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul and Mahmoud Habboush in Abu Dhabi; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Trapped Burmese face arrest, extortion to flee Thai floods


AYUTTHAYA, Thailand (Reuters) - With no money or identity documents and stranded in a foreign land for days on end without food and water, they are the forgotten people of Thailand's flood disaster.

Migrant workers from Myanmar who were trapped in floods and have been out of work for weeks, hold food rations in Thailand's Ayutthaya province November 1, 2011. (REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom)

Evacuation is not an option for hundreds of Burmese migrant workers marooned in the newly formed swamps and road-rivers that cover industrialised central Thailand.

Many are in Thailand illegally, but even the legitimate migrants fear arrest or becoming victims of extortion by Thai and Burmese border officials and opportunist mafia gangs.

"We have to take care of ourselves, we share the little food we have, but that's gone," said Show Tae, 34, who worked in a factory making pizza bases before water rushed in a month ago.

"We can't go home because we have no money and if I go back to Myanmar, there's no work there either."

In provinces like Ayutthaya, 100 km (65 miles) north of Bangkok, hundreds of Burmese are trying to ride out Thailand's worst floods in half a century, crammed into apartment blocks with no electricity and relying on a few aid groups to navigate submerged roads to deliver food, water and medical supplies.

Homes and shops have been destroyed, industrial estates housing hundreds of factories have been forced to shut down, leaving 650,000 people jobless. More than 400 people have been killed and 2 million affected since July.

People like Show Tae are not the priority as authorities, troops and relief workers battle to reach thousands of Thais cut off by water as deep as two metres in provinces like Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani and Nakhon Sawan.

Many Thais are in evacuation centres, or camped out along highways, sleeping in small tents, the back of parked trucks or under plastic sheets, but food and water is available.


Families are crammed into boats, rowing along roads and through rice fields with a backdrop of warehouses, tractors and bulldozers partially submerged by the muddy, foul-smelling water that has left this province looking like a coastal area.

For Burmese, the situation is even more dire. Activists say migrant workers hit by floods -- a crucial part of Thailand's $319 billion economy -- have been largely ignored.

"They have no one, nowhere to go and the factory owners can't take care of them," said Laddawan Tantivitayapitak of the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB), which was delivering food supplies to the Burmese victims on Tuesday.

"Many lost their documents and money in the floods. Other chose to flee but were arrested."

About 250 Burmese are believed to be receiving help in shelters, but tens of thousands more were affected by the flooding.

The Labour Ministry estimates there are more than 1 million foreign migrant workers in Bangkok and surrounding provinces, including those who are registered and those working illegally. Those with documentation are not permitted to travel beyond the provinces in which they are employed.

For many, evacuation means detention or the possibility of being delayed or blocked from returning to jobs in Thailand that help feed millions of impoverished people back in Myanmar.

Many have decided to go home anyway. Activists say thousands of labourers have escaped swamped areas and have been cramming into trucks, forced to part with about 2,500 baht ($81) to get to the Thai-Myanmar frontier, where some border officials on either side have been demanding informal fees just to allow them to get home.

"It is unacceptable for Thai and Myanmar officials to be profiteering from migrants' desire to go home in a time of disaster like this," said Andy Hall, a migration expert at Bangkok's Mahidol University.

"Thailand has not been able to efficiently and humanely provide for affected migrants inside the country so far."

Win, 19, a registered worker at the pizza base factory who was born in Thailand but does not have citizenship, said she and her colleagues were destitute and many living in fear.

"We no longer have work but my friends have no choice but to wait," she said. "They're too scared to leave."

(Additional reporting by Jutarat Skulpichetrat; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Israel to speed up settlement building in West Bank


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel decided on Tuesday to accelerate Jewish settlement building and withhold Palestinian Authority funds, moves likely to further hold up international efforts to revive peace talks.

A Jewish settler walks past furniture taken out of a makeshift structure before its demolition by the Israeli army in the West Bank outpost of Ramat Migron outside Ramallah November 1, 2011. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Israel's move came a day after UNESCO awarded the Palestinians full membership of the U.N. cultural agency, a diplomatic victory for the Palestinian Authority in its push for recognition as a state at the United Nations.

Israel called the UNESCO decision a "tragedy" and the United States said it would stop its funding of the organisation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the accelerated construction of some 2,000 housing units, said an official statement released after he convened his cabinet.

The Palestinian presidency said the decision to speed up settlement construction on land where the Palestinians aim to found a state amounted to a decision to "speed up the destruction of the peace process".

Nabil Abu Rdainah, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also described as "inhumane" the Israeli decision to temporarily withhold funds collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

A senior Israeli government official said after the cabinet meeting that the decision to halt money transfers to the Palestinians Authority was a temporary measure until a final decision was made.

"You can't demand from the Israeli public to continue to show restraint when the Palestinian leadership continues to slam the door in their face," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The statement said the new building will be in "areas that in any future arrangement will remain in Israel's hands".

The official said 1,650 of the new tenders are for units in eastern parts of Jerusalem, and the rest are for Efrat and Maale Adumim, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.


In the absence of peace talks, which collapsed about a year ago in a dispute over settlement building, Abbas has been seeking statehood recognition from the United Nations.

Netanyahu has called to restart peace talks without preconditions, but Abbas says he will return to negotiations only after Israel totally freezes its settlement activity.

The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators -- which includes the United States, Russia, European Union and the United Nations -- has been trying to jumpstart the process and said last week both sides had agreed to offer proposals to solve two key sticking points, territory and security.

The Palestinians are looking to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, land Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel later annexed East Jerusalem, a move that has not won international recognition. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and in 2007 the territory was taken over by Hamas Islamists, who are rivals to Western-backed Abbas and refuse to recognise Israel.

It will be the second time this year that Israel has withheld the revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The revenues, which include duties on goods being imported to the Palestinian territories, amount to around $100 million each month -- half of the PA's domestic revenue base.

Israel decided earlier this year to withhold the revenues when Abbas concluded a reconciliation agreement with the Hamas.

The freeze imposed temporarily earlier this year resulted in the PA not being able to pay salaries to its 150,000 employees on time for the first time since 2007.

The move comes with less than a week to go before Palestinian Muslims mark Eid al-Adha, when families spend more than usual on festivities.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

AirAsia Travelogue: New travel series

Posted: 02 Nov 2011 04:44 AM PDT

Let AirAsia Travelogue host Edd Razhe help you decide on your next holiday destination.

WHAT do Maya Karin, Fauziah Latiff, Ella and Daphne Iking have in common? The answer – they are all slated to appear as guests on the soon-to-be-aired AirAsia Travelogue television series on TV3 which will be hosted by Edd Razhe.

While all the names may be familiar, that of the show's host – Edd Razhe – may not be so.

Edd is no stranger to the entertainment industry, having found and put together the talent for all-girl pop group Feminin, and was also Maya's manager for about a year.

Today, Edd is a full-time employee of AirAsia, whose job description is "PA to the Chairman and Group Deputy CEO", which refers to the airline's bigwigs Datuk Aziz Bakar and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, respectively. According to Edd, he has known Tan Sri Tony Fernandes (AirAsia CEO) and Kamarudin since the time he was working in Warner Music (Malaysia), which he left about 10 years ago.

"I used to do a lot of marketing and communications for them. When Tony and Kamarudin bought over the airline, they took a few people with them. I would say I am one of the lucky ones. I have been with AirAsia since day one!" says Edd who was in Paris for the shooting of the series in September.

So how did the idea for an AirAsia-themed travel series come about? Edd relates that it was born out of a routine meeting with the marketing and communications department to discuss projects that could be done in conjunction with AirAsia's 10-year anniversary.

"We wanted to make it interesting and remind people how we have grown. AirAsia had been collaborating with TV3's Majalah 3 for the past few years, and I came up with the idea to have our own travelogue," says Edd, adding that both heads of department jumped on the idea.

Edd relates that taking the show from concept to reality was not easy, and it took a lot of patience and time. With encouragement, and most importantly moral support from Aziz, the show came to fruition.

"With a good team, we managed to get everything sorted out. I have a great team assisting me – Fairuz Majid from AirAsia X and Fara Hasan from Tune Group are the executive producers for this programme."

The other major consideration was who should helm the show. During that fateful meeting, it was decided that the best person to host it would be Edd himself. "They said I had been with AirAsia since day one, and knew the company well.

"I went home to think about it, and eventually asked myself, why not? For sure, it would be a big challenge, but a new experience as well.

"I have always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, but this time around I would be the face of AirAsia!" says Edd. Finding his feet in the role as a TV show host is new to Edd, but that has not deterred him from giving it a go.

"It wasn't easy, but after some guidance from the production team and also my own research on how to prepare myself, things fell into place," he says, adding that he now has personal insight into the phrase "never say never".

As the host of a travel programme, it is a prerequisite that Edd himself is a seasoned traveller – which he is.

"I am out of the country every other week because of work. But when it comes to my personal holidays, I would say Paris and Istanbul are my favourites. Both cities are rich in history and architecture. I am easily amazed by structures and different cultures – and, of course, the shopping scene!"

The locations for each episode were picked from the destinations that AirAsia travels to, and for Edd, it is like travelling down memory lane.

"I have visited most of the destinations before, and now I have the chance to share how interesting they can be with our viewers. (We will cover) what sort of activities the visitors can enjoy, but most importantly, how AirAsia can make it happen for everyone because of the affordable fare and packages we offer!"

Filming for the first episode on Paris has been completed, and the material is now in the editing room. Personally, Edd is very excited and describes it as a "must-watch" episode.

"I am also looking forward to making the trip to Osaka, Japan. I have never been there and I heard there are many things we can do there. You need to watch each and every episode. Each will be different because of the destination and the guest artiste!"

It is still early days yet, with shooting for most destinations yet to be completed but there are already plans for a second season.

So will Edd go back to his duties as a PA once the series reaches its conclusion?

Edd leaves the question unanswered but says: "I love AirAsia very much! This programme is my new baby in promoting AirAsia, and it goes back to my duty as an "Allstar", which is what we call ourselves at AirAsia!"

AirAsia Travelogue is a collaboration between AirAsia and TV3. The 13-episode series will premiere on Nov 20 at 7.30pm. . AirAsiaX flies to Orly, Paris airport four times a week.

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Parisian walkways

Posted: 02 Nov 2011 03:12 AM PDT

HERE is a peek at what to expect from the pilot episode.

Murano Urban Resort

This is a chic boutique hotel and restaurant in the heart of Paris. One of the unique traits about Paris is how the facades of all heritage buildings are preserved, but there are no limits to the changes one can make indoors.

Teo Bian Hooi, our guide from Paris Trip Tours, puts it succinctly: "You'll never know what you'll find when you open doors in Paris."

Indeed, with a buffet spread over its entire ground floor, novel furnishing, and DJ and live band playing soft jazz music, this is truly a feast for all senses.

The town of Deauville

Deauville is a picturesque seaside town that is two hours' drive from Paris. It is very popular with Parisians who go there for weekend getaways – so much so it is sometimes called Paris' "21st precinct" in reference to its 20 official precincts (arrondissement in French).

It houses beautiful villas, a horse-racing course, a lovely beach (which is also the scene of film festivals) and a historical manor where many movies were filmed (Coco Before Chanel starring Audrey Tatou being one of them).

Château de Versailles

Translated as the Palace of Versailles, it is listed as one of Unesco's World Heritage sites. It represents one of the heights of French flair in architecture and style. It was a hunting lodge before King Louis XIV expanded, transformed and made it the centre of government in 1682.

Each subsequent king added to its beauty until the reign of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette – the latter was famously sentenced to death by guillotine during the French Revolution in the late 18th century.

The sprawling 7.87sqkm estate houses a palace, a vast garden and multiple residences. While much of its elegant furnishings are now gone, there are still significant reminders of its former glory – more than sufficient to lure in 15 million visitors a year.

Fashion and shopping

Needless to say, Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. France is home to major labels such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, amongst many others. One has to wonder why there is such a long queue to get into the flagship Louis Vuitton store on the famed Champs-Élysées. Also have a first look at a Guy Laroche fashion show for the Summer 2012 collection in conjunction with Paris Fashion Week.

For those shopping for designer labels on a budget, a must-visit place is the La Valée Village, where previous season collections were typically 50% off street prices.

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Gallic getaway

Posted: 02 Nov 2011 03:26 AM PDT

ACTRESS Maya Karin didn't need much convincing to agree to be a guest on the first episode of AirAsia Travelogue with Edd Razhe, especially when she learnt that it was set in Paris.

"I was at a buka puasa event that he organised, where he told me about this programme and asked if I wanted to come. Yeah, I did! Especially this year, which is my year of travel and I have chosen not to do that much work in KL.

"Paris for me is all about art, history and of course the fashion – I've come to love it and believe that I really fit into its fashion scene!"

Maya had been to Paris twice before – once with her parents when she was 12, and the other time as a teenager with friends.

"As a 12-year-old I was not so aware of things. It was a quick family trip through Europe, and Paris was just a day thing. I spent most of the time with my mother shopping while my dad and brothers went to Disneyland.

"I came back when I was 18 and soaked up more of the sights and had some good food," Maya recalls.

"Now, as an adult, I appreciate the bigger picture of Paris. There's the architecture, for example – which I notice much more now – its beauty and the way things are preserved. It would not be the same if its buildings were all new. That's why other cities in France are not as special. New buildings? Big deal!"

Another thing that Maya appreciates in Paris is the anonymity – something that she does not have back home in Malaysia.

She describes how she has to put on sunglasses and a cap every time she goes into a shopping centre, and only going when it is not crowded.

"It's not that people hunt me down or clamber over themselves (to see me). It's just a bit uncomfortable sometimes, with people looking at what I'm picking up.

"There are people here in Paris who recognise me, but it's just one or two – still a lot less than in London, that's for sure!"

All in all, Maya found the Paris experience a pleasant one. And what about the perception that the French will be aloof to anyone who does not speak their language?

"That was not the case at all! I didn't find a single person who snubbed his nose at us. English communication has been very easy, really."

She is also very anxious to see the end result of their Paris shoot.

"I think we recorded a nice episode. We have a lot of material, and we're trying to make it into two episodes – it would be a shame not to."

But as things stand her involvement starts and ends in Paris.

"I think its going to be a great show. I wish I could be involved in each episode because Edd's great fun and we get along and we present quite well together. But alas, we have to give other artistes a chance.

"On this episode, I was the guest and it's far more casual – I am allowed to just be myself. It's more like hanging out and telling the audience what fun we're having."

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Cricket: Disgraced trio "shamed Pakistan"

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 05:28 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters): On a day when Salman Butt should have been celebrating the birth of his new son with friends and family in Lahore, the former Pakistan captain was left to contemplate a possible jail sentence and the death of his cricket career after being found guilty of spot fixing in a British criminal court.

Butt and team mate Mohammad Asif could be enjoying their last night as free citizens for some time on Tuesday after a jury decided they were guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments for fixing part of a test match in England last year.

A third cricketer, teenaged fast bowler Mohammad Amir, pleaded guilty to the charges before the start of the trial. All three will be sentenced on Wednesday.

"It is a day of sadness and happiness for us. We are shocked by this verdict and will fight to the end. But at the same time God has given us a new life," Butt's father, Zulfiqar Butt, told Reuters after his daughter-in-law gave birth an hour before the verdict was announced.

While Butt's father summed up a bittersweet day for his family, the three players discovered that they had effectively been cast aside by the cricketing community after many former players said they "deserved no mercy" for "shaming Pakistan cricket".

Three cricketers who should have been setting the world alight with their sporting feats now find their names written alongside late South African captain Hansie Cronje in cricket's 'Hall of Shame' for trying to cheat in their sport.

Tuesday's findings followed allegations in a British newspaper that the trio had arranged for deliberate no-balls to be delivered in the fourth test at Lord's last year.

Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas said: "These players have brought a bad name to Pakistan cricket and it is a tragedy that we saw a day where cricketers had to face a criminal trial."

Just over a year ago things had been very different for the disgraced trio.

Butt, an elegant left-handed batsman, was given the task of guiding a troubled Pakistan side out of turmoil when he was appointed captain in July last year for the second test against Australia after Shahid Afridi quit the post abruptly.


Butt made an immediate impact by winning the test, played at the neutral venue of Leeds in England, by three wickets but the subsequent series against England brought his 33-test match career to a premature halt. He had scored 1,889 runs with an average of 30.46.

Asif, who had made his debut in 2005, had taken 106 test wickets in 23 matches at an average of 24.36, while Amir had been tipped to become one of the world's best bowlers before he and his two team mates were suspended for at least five years by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in February after being caught up in the spot-fixing scandal.

During a prolific 2010 season, the teenaged Amir was named man of the match for becoming the youngest player to take a five-wicket haul in England and he also grabbed 19 scalps during the four-match series. In a career spanning 14 tests since his 2009 debut against Sri Lanka, Amir claimed 51 wickets.

The ICC bans would suggest that Butt, 27, and 28-year-old Asif, who has been in trouble with the authorities before after testing positive twice for a steroid and getting caught with a recreational drug in his wallet at Dubai airport, have effectively played their last match.

Some pundits believe the younger Amir could make a comeback following the ban. Before the trial started, all three vowed to return. They kept up their fitness as a show of defiance but should they find themselves behind bars, state-of-the-art fitness centres and personal trainers will be hard to come by.

It was the second time in just over a decade that corruption was found to be rampant in cricket after the match-fixing furore in 2000 when three international captains - Cronje, Saleem Malik of Pakistan and India's Mohammed Azharuddin - were banned for life from all forms of cricket. Spot-fixing involves a player, or players, agreeing to perform to order. For example, a bowler might deliberately bowl consecutive wides in his second over or a batsman could make sure he does not reach double figures.

Because individual spot-fixing incidents may have no influence on a game's outcome, they are particularly difficult to detect and the Lord's offences came to the authorities' attention only after a sting operation in the British newspaper the News of the World.

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Cook replaces Jordan in Presidents Cup assistant's role

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 05:28 PM PDT

John Cook, an 11-times winner on the PGA Tour, has been appointed as an assistant to United States captain Fred Couples for this month's Presidents Cup in Australia, the tour said on Tuesday.

American Cook will replace basketball great Michael Jordan, who withdrew from the role due to the ongoing labor dispute and player lockout in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Jordan, a majority owner of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, had initially been appointed as one of two assistants, along with PGA Tour veteran Jay Haas, for the Nov. 17-20 competition at Royal Melbourne.

"John has been a friend of mine since we broke in together on the PGA Tour in the early 1980s," Couples said in a statement. "Having achieved success at the highest levels in the golf world, I value his opinion greatly.

"I would like to thank Michael for his significant contributions, both as a captain's assistant and his role as ambassador for the Presidents Cup.

"While the team will miss his friendship, spirit and leadership, we certainly understand the complexity of his current team obligations."

Jordan, who served as an honorary captain's assistant to Couples at the 2009 Presidents Cup, said: "It is with regret that I have decided to cancel my trip to Australia later this month.

"With the NBA labor situation unsettled, as the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, I feel it is necessary that I remain in the country. It was an honor to have been chosen by Fred Couples to serve as a captain's assistant."

The Presidents Cup is a Ryder Cup-style competition which pits a U.S. team against a line-up of International players from countries outside Europe. The U.S. won the trophy in 2009 for the sixth time in eight editions. -Reuters

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Squash: Azlan ousts Ong

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 06:31 PM PDT

ROTTERDAM: National No. 1 Mohd Azlan Iskandar outplayed his old friend Ong Beng Hee in the first round of the World Squash Championships at the Victoria Squash Centre here on Monday.

World No. 14 Azlan took 76 minutes to win 11-3, 11-7, 3-11, 11-5 and set up a second round clash with former England player Alister Walker, who now represents Bostwana.

Walker, ranked 20th in the world, beat Omar Abdel Aziz of Egypt 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 in the opening round.

"My matches against Beng Hee have always been tough. It was no different today," said Azlan, 29.

"Although he looked a bit nervous in the first set, he settled down to give me a good fight in the second.

"We had some good rallies. The opening match is always the hardest."

Azlan conceded that it would be tough against Walker in the second round.

"It won't be easy. I last played him in the second round of the Kuwait Open in 2008 and I only just beat him 3-2," said Azlan.

Meanwhile, qualifier Cesar Salazar of Mexico created the biggest upset of the day when he came back from a set down to beat world No. 17 Adrian Grant of England 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 8-11, 11-5 in 68 minutes.

The reward for world No. 59 Salazar is a second round clash against sixth seed Gregory Gaultier of France.

"This is the best day of my life as I have never beaten a player ranked in the top 20 before," said a delighted Salazar.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

EA wins RM6.6mil contract from IRB

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 05:43 PM PDT


KUALA LUMPUR: Information and communication technology company EA Holdings Bhd, through its subsidiary EASS Sdn Bhd, has secured a RM6.6mil contract from the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) for data centre relocation.

Group chairman and chief executive officer Mohammad Sobri Saad said the relocation involved the migration of the data centre of IRB from the current location at Jalan Duta here to Cyberjaya.

"We are delighted to secure the contract with IRB and confident that more are on the way," he said at the contract signing ceremony between the company and IRB yesterday.

Mohammad Sobri said apart from winning the contract, the group had tendered for numerous projects with various Government bodies and government-linked companies that were worth about RM100mil.

"We are confident of winning a few (contracts) which will augur well for the future of the company," he said, adding that the group was hoping to secured about 30% to 40% of the bid tenders.

He also said the group was constantly scouting the market for companies with solid fundamentals and solid growth potential for acquisition.

"However, the target companies must have revenue above RM8mil or more, which is the minimum size we seek," he said, adding that the companies must also have good profit record.

The group had in April proposed to acquire a 51% stake in DDSB (M) Sdn Bhd for an indicative purchase consideration of RM19.38mil.

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Wall Street ends down 2 percent on Greek woes

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 05:36 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks tumbled on Tuesday after investors were blindsided by a surprise call for a Greek referendum on a EU bailout plan, casting doubt on the sustainability of the recent market rally.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 295.39 points, or 2.47 percent, at 11,659.62, according to the latest available figures.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 34.96 points, or 2.79 percent, at 1,218.34.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 77.45 points, or 2.89 percent, at 2,606.96.

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Analysis: Wild market may send investors home early in 2011

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 05:34 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - So much for euphoria.

Having soared just days ago on a pledge by European leaders to prop up euro zone banks and stem the spread of a festering debt crisis, world stock markets and the euro came crashing back to earth this week as Greece's government hovered near collapse.

The decision by Greece's prime minister to subject a just-agreed bailout to referendum was the last thing markets wanted to hear.

A defeat by Greek voters could see Greece ejected from the euro zone and thrust into default, a scenario investors fear could spark a run on banks that have lent money to troubled European states.

Investors, faced with such risks, may opt to pack it in for the year and live to trade another day.

"We're seeing moves in one day that in normal times we would see in the course of a year," said Quincy Krosby, market analyst at Prudential Financial in Newark. "That makes for a very difficult market to navigate."

It hasn't been a robust year to begin with -- the S&P 500 is down 2.8 percent so far in 2011.

Andrew Busch, a currency and public policy strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Chicago, compared the market's swings to teenagers in love.

"One day, they're in a euphoric state, holding hands. The next there's an ugly breakup," he said. The longer that goes on, he added, the more inclined investors will be to park their money in U.S. Treasuries and sit things out for a few rounds.

There were signs of that Tuesday. U.S. stocks tumbled a day after the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index wrapped up its best month in 20 years. The euro lost 1.1 percent on Tuesday, interrupting a long rally for the single currency. U.S. Treasuries, widely sought as safe havens in times of stress, rose as the 10-year yield fell below 2 percent.

Scott Mather, a portfolio manager at PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund with assets of $1.2 trillion, said he would not be surprised to see the 10-year yield fall to 1.50 percent or less by year-end on concerns about Europe, a still sluggish U.S. economy and signs of fatigue in the Chinese economy.

The uncertainty could force institutions to remain conservative or grow more reticent about adding to risk. Global portfolio managers cut equity holdings to the second lowest level in 12 months in October, Reuters polls showed on Monday.

"At some point, they may abandon (positions) given everything that's going and just take risk off the table," he said. "That could have a meaningful impact on markets."


A big risk for investors, Busch said, is the speed at which markets react when anxiety runs high. The demise of MF Global Holdings Ltd, the brokerage run by former Goldman Sachs Group chief and New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, is a case in point.

Once market unease about the firm's exposure to European debt spread, it took less than a week for it to be forced into bankruptcy and put pressure on bank shares around the world.

"It's astonishing how fast things move. The alacrity with which people can want to sell a stock that has any connection to Europe or other problems is a cautionary tale," Busch said.

Other warning signs are flashing, too. October factory activity in China, an important engine of global growth in recent years, fell to its lowest level since early 2009, hit by a decline in export orders from Europe.

That prompted Australia to cut its benchmark interest rate for the first time in more than two years. Australia is a major raw materials supplier for China and has been something of a leading indicator on monetary policy and global growth.

While recent data suggests the U.S. economy may be able to skirt recession, economists say growth remains too sluggish to make a dent in a 9.1 percent jobless rate.

"Even if Europe wasn't the standout cause of concern, there's still plenty to be worried about" Mather said.

If investor risk aversion grows, life will get challenging for policymakers as well. In Japan, investors who exit risky trades and bring money back home for safekeeping strengthen the yen while hurting the country's export sector and economy.

Some say that makes intervening to weaken the yen, something the Japanese government did this week for the third time this year, an expensive and ultimately futile exercise.

Bank of Japan data suggests the government spent nearly $99 billion on Monday to weaken the currency.

"Our outlook calls for substantial volatility in all currencies, except for possibly the yen. As such, our risk assessment is currently favoring the yen disproportionally," said Axel Merk, who manages the $750 million Merk Hard Currency Fund in Palo Alto, California.


But Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer & Co, said those who get too gloomy risk missing opportunities, such as stocks that offer higher dividend yields than safe-haven Treasuries.

Reports Tuesday afternoon that Greece might abandon a referendum on the bailout caused stocks and the euro to pare losses and knocked some of the wind out of bonds.

"All of us -- hedge funds, mutual funds, mom-and-pop operations -- are at the mercy of the sound bite right now. There's a lot of fear," said Belski, who expects the S&P 500 to end the year at 1,325, up from around 1,218 on Tuesday.

"What's going on right now is a classic study in investor psychology."

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Govt didn’t give in to pressure when allowing Israeli boxer to enter M’sia

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 05:30 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Wisma Putra has refuted an allegation that the government was scared and had bowed to pressure from Israel's allies when it allowed an Israeli sportsman to enter the country.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem said Malaysia's foreign policy had not changed and the country did not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

"Although there are no bilateral ties between the two countries, there is a leeway in the admission requirements where an Israeli national is allowed to enter Malaysia to attend a meeting or conference or a world-class sports meet," he said when winding up the debate on the Supply Bill 2012 for the ministry at the Dewan Rakyat here on Tuesday.

During his winding-up speech, Riot was repeatedly asked by several members of parliament, including Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff (PKR-Balik Pulau), Khalid Samad (PAS-Shah Alam) and Datuk Ismail Kasim (BN-Arau), to explain Malaysia's stand on Israel and the approval given to Israeli boxer, Ilya Grad, to participate in the Challenger Muay Thai Championship in Selangor. He said the boxer's admission into Malaysia was never referred to Wisma Putra.

Nevertheless, he said the admission was subject to the approval from the Home Ministry, and the invitation for him must come from the organiser and not the Malaysian Government.

Riot said another requirement for the admission was that his (Ilya's) participation in the meeting, conference and sports meet must be kept low profile and could not be given publicity by the local media.

"We are aware of the sensitivities of the people in this issue, but we have taken into consideration the fact that if the Israeli national were to be prevented from participating in the meeting, conference and the international sports meet, there is high possibility that Israel's allies, like the United States, will stage a protest and cancel their participation," he added. - Bernama

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Six overseas M'sians seek registration as absent voters

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 05:12 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Six overseas Malaysians are seeking a court order to compel the Election Commission (EC) to register them as absent voters.

The six, all residing in the United Kingdom, are Dr Teo Hoon Seong, electrical engineer V.Vinesh, entrepreneur Paramjeet Singh, Dr Yolanda Sydney Augustin, translator Sim Tze Wei and software architect Leong See See.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Rohana Yusuf has set Nov 14 to hear their application for leave for a judicial review.

In their application, made available to the media Tuesday, the six are asking for a declaration that they, as Malaysian citizens who are staying abroad, are entitled to be registered as absent voters.

Thus, they want the court to direct the EC, the sole defendent, to register them.

Alternatively, they are asking for a court order directing the EC to make regulations and take appropriate actions, within 14 days from the court ruling, to allow them to be registered as absent voters and/or postal voters in order for them to vote in the coming general election.

Apart from that, they are seeking for any other order and relief deemed fit by the court.

The the judicial review application was filed on Tuesday through the law firm of Messrs Chooi & Company.

On Monday, according to a press statement from MyOverseasVote, a group fighting for voting rights for all Malaysians living abroad, the six Malaysians asking for the court order applied to be registered as absent voters in order to be able to vote in the coming general election, but were instead registered by the EC as ordinary voters, who must return to Malaysia to vote in person.

The bulk of Malaysian citizens living overseas, who are working in the private sector, and those who are retired or unemployed, are required to return to Malaysia to vote in person.

At present, the EC only allows government servants, members of armed forces and full-time students to register as absent voters, so that they could vote by post at the next election, the statement said.

However, the statement claimed, Malaysian students overseas who had attempted to register "have had to overcome many obstacles put in their way, with some embassies and consulates refusing to register students who were not sponsored by the government, and others refusing to register students who had previously registered as ordinary voters at home."

Although the EC had clarified that all students were eligible to register as absent voters, as recently as this month, the Malaysian consulate in New York was still telling students that only government scholars could register as absent voters, the statement claimed.

Related Stories:
EC: Postal voting for M'sians abroad once regulations amended
Wisma Putra officers abroad to register absent voters: EC
PM: Parliamentary committee to be formed to discuss electoral reform
One million Malaysians working abroad, says Devamany

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Indonesian workers in M’sia remit US$1.7bil July-Sept 2011

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 04:20 AM PDT

JAKARTA: Indonesian workers in Malaysia remitted US$1.7bil (RM5.3bil) in the third quarter of this year, Indonesia's central bank said.

Bank Indonesia said the remittance represented half of a total of US$2.91bil sent back by Indonesian workers in the Asia-Pacific region.

A central bank spokesperson Difi Johansyah was quoted by news portal that remittance by Indonesian workers overseas reached US$5.05 bil for the whole of the third quarter this year.

Remittance from the Middle East and Africa was US$2.01bil. - Bernama

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Bill Murray to star with Charlie Sheen in movie

Posted: 31 Oct 2011 05:03 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES ( Bill Murray has joined the cast of Roman Coppola's ''A Glimpse Into the Mind of Charles Swan III,'' TheWrap has confirmed.

Murray will add his famous oddness to a cast that also includes Charlie Sheen and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Jason Schwartzman - the director's cousin - also stars.

The movie, which Coppolla wrote and is directing and producing, is about a famous graphic designer who plummets into a vortex of despair after his girlfriend dumps him.

Youree Henley also is producing.

Coppola is the son of Francis Ford Coppola and the brother of Sofia Coppola - who directed Murray in her 1993 ''Lost in Translation.''

Roman Coppola was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best special effects for the 1992 ''Dracula.''

Murray also stars as Franklin D. Roosevelt in the upcoming ''Hyde Park on the Hudson,'' now in post production, and in ''Moonrise Kingdom,'' also in post production.

''A Glimpse Into the Mind of Charles Swan III'' is set for a 2012 release.

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Spielberg's 'Tintin' lands closing night at AFI festival

Posted: 31 Oct 2011 05:01 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES ( Monday afternoon's announcement that Steven Spielberg's ''The Adventures of Tintin'' will be the closing-night film at the AFI Fest would be more newsworthy if the film won't already have been playing around the world for two weeks by the time it debuts in Hollywood on Nov. 10.

Still, the news gives the AFI Fest a heavyweight closer, and marks the North American debut of an animated (via the motion-capture technique) film whose overseas reaction has been marked by big grosses and divided critics.

''Steven Spielberg is a national treasure,'' said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO in a press release announcing the premiere. ''He has written this nation's cultural legacy over four decades, he inspires artists and audiences alike and he honors us all by premiering 'The Adventures of Tintin'' at AFI Fest, where we celebrate the very best the world has to offer for 2011.''

The official U.S. release date for ''Tintin'' is Dec. 21.

The 2011 AFI Fest begins on Nov. 3 with a screening of Clint Eastwood's ''J. Edgar,'' and takes place over the following seven days at the Chinese and Egyptian theatres and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

Last year's AFI Fest closer was Darren Aronofsky's ''Black Swan,'' which went on to win the Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature and an Oscar for star Natalie Portman.

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Metro watch

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 04:14 AM PDT


Several areas will in the Petaling district will experience water supply disruption today due to maintenance works from 10pm to 5am the next day. The areas involved are Section 1-4, Section 6-9, Section 18, Jalan Penchala, Bandar Baru Sri Petaling, Desa Petaling, Jalan Klang Lama (3rd-6th Mile), OUG, Jalan Sungai Besi, Pekan Sungai Besi, Kampung Baru Salak Selatan, Kampung Malaysia, Kampung Pasir Baru, Taman Sri Sentosa, Bukit Jalil, Jalan Puchong (6th-8th Mile), Taman Bukit Indah, Taman Tan Yew Lai, Section 14, Section 51A (Kampung Baiduri), Section 22 (Taman Len Seng), SS9 (Sungai Way and Section 51 Petaling Jaya. For details, call 1800-88-5252 or visit


A Community Care Carnival is being organised to raise funds for maintaining tuition centres, playground upgrade and children facilities in the Section 8, Kota Damansara low-cost PPR flats on Nov 13 from 10am-4pm at Tropicana Medical Centre, 11, Jalan Teknologi, PJU5, Kota Damansara. There will be cosplay and mascot appearances, face painting, colouring contest, free basic healh screening and health talks as well as food stalls and carnival games.


The Malaysia Museum Department is organising a Sleepover at the National Textile Museum on Nov 12-13 to spread knowledge on the museum's collection to the public from all ages and backgrounds. Entrance fee is RM50 and closing deadline for registration is tomorrow. For details, call 03-2694 3457/3461.

Awareness walkathon

In conjunction with World Diabetes Day, Putrajaya Hospital, Putrajaya Corporation and Novo Nordisk Pharma Sdn Bhd are organising a 5km walkathon and aerobics session as well as games and lucky draw on Nov 13, 6.45am-10am at Taman Wetland, Precinct 13, Putrajaya. For details, call 03-2297 7200 (Nurita).

Book exhibition

The Ampang Jaya Book Exhibition 2011 is held today until Nov 3 from 8am-5.30pm at the Menara MPAJ, level 4, Gallery. Among the activities being held are sale of children's book, magazines, novels and religious books, story-telling competition, colouring competition, spelling contest and more.

Free demo

The YMCA in collaboration with the Malaysia Association of Dodgeball will be conducting a free demo on Nov 3 from 3pm-6pm at Lee Kong Chian Hall. Interested participants are encouraged to join in. For details, call 03-2274 1439 or visit

Free exhibition

The Malaysian Institute of Accountants and the Asean Federation of Accountants is opening its conference exhibition to the public on Nov 3, 2pm-5.30pm. Admission is free. There will be opportunities to meet with industry leaders and learn more about the industry.

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Taman Desawan residents want permanent solution to sinking problem

Posted: 01 Nov 2011 04:13 AM PDT

RESIDENTS of Taman Desawan in Klang are living in fear as several houses were damaged following the appearance of a sinkhole in the area.

Those living in Lorong Gambus 4A and Lorong Gambus 4B — are the worst affected with at least six houses already declared unsafe by the authorities.

Two houses in Jalan Gambus 4A and four units in Jalan Gambus 4B, including a corner lot, are on the verge of collapse.

These houses are located along the banks of Sungai Aur and cracks have appeared on walls since 2004.

Chong Koon Lai, 63, who lives two doors away from the corner lot at Jalan Gambus 4B said all the owners of the badly damaged houses had been ordered out of their premises.

"The corner house appears to be on the verge of collapsing at any time with beams and structures about to give way.

"My immediate neighbour's house has cracks. Cracks have also appeared on the walls of my house,'' said Chong.

He added that the occupants on the opposite row had also vacated.

Chong said he and his wife moved into the area three years ago from Kedah as the couple wanted to stay nearer their son who lived in Klang. "We regretted buying the house and I hope that the Klang Municipal Council will find a solution to this problem.

"We were told that the houses were damaged due to earth slips,'' he said.

Chong said he and his neigbours were in a dilemma over the status of their properties.

Another resident wanted a permanent solution to be offered to home owners residing near the damaged units.

He said the idea of ordering the occupants to vacate their houses after the units were declared unsafe had not reflected well on the authorities.

"They should give us a solution to ensure that the remaining houses are safe so we do not have to face a similar situation in the future,'' he said.

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Jessica Simpson pregnant with first child

Posted: 31 Oct 2011 11:54 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: Singer, actress and fashion mogul Jessica Simpson has finally put baby rumours to rest by confirming Monday that she is pregnant with her first child, in a statement posted on her official website.

''It's True! I am going to be a mummy!'' the singer wrote, alongside a photo of her dressed in a mummy costume for Halloween.

Simpson, 31, is currently engaged to former professional football player Eric Johnson, 32, whom she has been dating since May 2010. This will be the first child for the couple.

Simpson first rose to fame at age 19 with her debut album ''Sweet Kisses'' in 1999. She married singer Nick Lachey, of boy band 98 Degrees, in 2002 and the couple were the stars of MTV reality series, ''Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica.'' Simpson and Lachey divorced in 2006.

The ''Dukes of Hazzard'' actress has had a number of high-profile relationships including U.S. football player Tony Romo and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan.

Simpson launched her ''Jessica Simpson Collection'' of clothing, handbags and shoes in 2007.

The clothing line made $750 million in 2010, according to New York Magazine, and is projected to break the $1 billion sales mark this year, making it one of the most successful celebrity fashion brands.

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