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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Greek parties ignore appeal for rapid compromise


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's ruling socialists and opposition conservatives offered rival plans for saving the nation from bankruptcy and safeguarding its euro zone membership, ignoring an appeal from the president to cooperate now on tackling the mess.

Greece's President Karolos Papoulias (R) shakes hands with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou at his office inside the Presidential Palace in Athens November 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Panayiotis Tzamaros)

For Prime Minister George Papandreou, only a coalition government ruling for at least several months can set Greece on the road to national salvation and secure a financial lifeline from international lenders before the money runs out.

But the conservative opposition flatly rejected the idea, offering its competing vision of snap elections -- and demanding Papandreou's resignation after two years of grappling with economic, political and social crisis.

All this disregarded an appeal by President Karolos Papoulias for the opposing sides of Greek politics to overcome their differences and get to work solving a crisis which risks wrecking international faith in the entire euro project.

"Consensus is the one and only way," Papoulias told the prime minister when he went to the presidential palace to launch his drive for a coalition government.

At immediate stake is the fate of Greece's 130 billion euro bailout, agreed by euro zone leaders to keep Athens afloat, and restore confidence on global financial markets that the euro zone nations can handle a crisis that could afflict much bigger economies such as Italy and Spain.


On Sunday the president will meet Antonis Samaras, who heads the conservative New Democracy party, as he tries to nudge the party politicians into something they are not good at -- compromise.

Papandreou's socialist cabinet is due to meet informally also on Sunday, as his PASOK party searches for support among the smaller parties, with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos playing a leading role.

Only a week ago the bailout deal seemed in the bag, but then Papandreou dropped a bombshell by announcing he would hold a referendum on the package -- which demands yet another wave of austerity be imposed on the long-suffering Greek population.

With the deal threatening to unravel, Germany and France told Papandreou that Greece would receive not one cent more in aid unless it fulfilled its side of the bargain.

Papandreou retreated on the referendum, but only after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Greece must make up its mind whether it wanted to stay in the euro or not.


Chastened, Papandreou was forced to signal that he was willing to stand down. He himself raised the spectre of Greece's future in the euro.

"My aim is to immediately create a government of cooperation," he said at the presidential palace. "A lack of consensus would worry our European partners over our country's will to stay in the euro zone."

Here he hit a raw nerve. Greeks have fought tooth and nail against the spending cuts and tax rises demanded by their international lenders in the euro zone and IMF, with some protests turning violent on the streets of Athens.

But there is also a widespread fear that Greece might be forced out of the euro and will have to go it alone with a revived national currency.

"Europeans don't trust us anymore, they will throw us out," said Tassos Pagonis, a 48-year-old Athens taxi driver. "I hope we don't return to the drachma."

The opposition showed little sign of giving ground.

"We ask for a short-term transitional government in order to restore a sense of stability and then the country goes to the polls," said Samaras. "We did not seek a role in this government, only that Mr. Papandreou, who has become dangerous for the country, resigns."

Opinion polls suggested Greeks favour Papandreou's model of a longer-serving unity government.

One survey commissioned by Proto Thema newspaper showed 52 percent of the public back the idea of a national unity government while 36 percent wanted snap elections. Another poll commissioned by Ethnos newspaper put support for the rival ideas at 45 percent and 41.7 percent respectively.

A government source said Papandreou's deputy, Finance Minister Venizelos, was already negotiating behind the scenes to win support from the smaller parties for a government that Venizelos himself wants to lead.

"Venizelos is having contacts with party leaders to secure their agreement," said a government official who requested anonymity.

In snubbing Papandreou, who survived a parliamentary confidence vote in the early hours of Saturday, Samaras acknowledged the leading role being played by Venizelos in the manoeuvring for power.

"Whenever we try to find a way out, the Papandreou-Venizelos government invents new obstacles to block it," he complained.

(Writing by David Stamp; Editing by Peter Graff)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Colombians cheer killing of guerrilla kingpin


POPAYAN, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombians rejoiced at the killing of top FARC rebel leader Alfonso Cano and hoped the biggest blow yet against Latin America's longest insurgency could herald an end to nearly five decades of war.

The body of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel commander, Alfonso Cano, is seen in Suarez province, Cauca in this November 4, 2011 handout photo. (REUTERS/Army Forces/Handout)

In a triumph for President Juan Manuel Santos' hardline security policy, officials said forces bombed a FARC jungle hide-out in the mountainous southwestern Cauca region.

Troops then rappelled down from helicopters to search the area, killing the widely hated Marxist rebel boss, his girlfriend and several other rebels in a gun battle on Friday.

Pictures of his dead body showed him without his trademark beard, eyes open and his thick glasses dangling from his neck.

Nobody expected the death of Cano, 63, who had a $3.7 million bounty on his head, to spell a quick end to a war that has killed tens of thousands in the Andean nation.

Late on Saturday, the rebels vowed to fight on, saying in a statement on a website that often carries their messages that it was not the first time a top FARC leader had been killed.

But it will further damage the drug trade-funded rebels' ability to coordinate high-profile bombings, ambushes and kidnappings that have brought them worldwide notoriety.

"It is the most devastating blow this group has suffered in its history," Santos said, speaking at a military base in Popayan, a mountain town close to where Cano was killed.

"I want to send a message to each and every member of that organization: 'Demobilize' ... or otherwise you will end up in a prison or in a tomb. We will achieve peace."


Some Colombians spilled into the street overnight, dancing and chanting with joy: "Cano is dead!" Local media splashed photos of Cano across their front pages.

While still supported in some hard left-wing circles due to the FARC's roots as a peasant insurgency, most Colombians saw Cano as a thug funded by the cocaine trade. As well as the deaths, high-profile kidnappings have traumatized the nation and tarnished its global reputation time and time again.

The former student activist took over leadership of the rebels after the founder of the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, died of a heart attack in 2008.

"This is brilliant news; it's just one more of those delinquents dead and a step closer to peace," said Horacio Londono, 53, buying cigarettes at a Bogota coffee stand.

Even prior to its decapitation, the FARC had been battered by a U.S.-backed military campaign that began in 2002. The waning insurgency has lost several other key commanders in the past few years.

Cano's death came after intelligence from a former rebel.

Six laptops were found along with 39 memory sticks, cell phones and cash in pesos, dollars and euros.

Cano's death was a major strategic victory for Santos, who came to office last year vowing to keep up a hard-line security stance.

It will ease the pressure on the president, who has been criticized over a recent upsurge in small-scale attacks, and it will reassure investors in the booming oil and mining sectors.

Foreign investment in Colombia has surged since the military crackdown began in 2002. But the FARC and other armed groups still pose a threat in rural areas where state presence is weak and cocaine trafficking finances their operations.

Many FARC fighters, demoralized by the military offensive that has cut them off from supplies of food, weapons and clothing, have begun to turn themselves in, inform on the leadership and question the basis of the struggle.

Bogota has hobbled the FARC's once-sophisticated communications, which until a few years ago were possible across vast swathes of jungle and mountains using radios.

Spy planes and listening technology have now left the FARC reliant on cellphone text messages and foot couriers.


It was not immediately clear who would take over from Cano, though analysts suggested FARC commanders Ivan Marquez or Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, could be candidates.

"There's no leader with the intensity that Cano has and it will be hard to get someone to replace him," said Alfredo Rangel, an independent security analyst. "In the short term there will be a lack of leadership. The end won't be automatic or immediate, but we are coming to the end of the FARC."

Cano went from being a middle-class communist youth activist in Bogota to become the top FARC leader after taking part in peace talks in Venezuela and Mexico during the 1990s.

The strike that killed him underscored how Colombia's military can now attack rebel leaders in the country's most remote regions. The FARC is at its weakest in decades.

Desertions and military operations have whittled down rebel ranks to about 7,000 fighters, but the FARC has survived for more than 40 years and still has a cadre of experienced mid-level commanders. Rebels are relying increasingly on hit-and-run tactics and ambushes in rural areas.

Though most Colombians profess hatred for the FARC, there is still some residual support, including universities where pro-rebel graffiti sometimes appears.

"The death of Alfonso Cano does not mean the end of the FARC," said Robert Munks of IHS Jane's think tank.

"President Santos will now be well-placed to promote a peace process involving a negotiated solution to the insurgency at the same time as maintaining military pressure."

(Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, Jack Kimball, Helen Murphy, Nelson Bocanegra and Julia Cobb; Writing by Daniel Wallis and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jackie Frank and Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Could rebel leader's death clinch Colombia peace?


BOGOTA (Reuters) - A bloodied corpse displayed by victorious troops in Colombia's mountains may come to symbolize the beginning of the end of Latin America's oldest insurgency.

The body of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel commander, Alfonso Cano, is seen in Suarez province, Cauca in this November 4, 2011 handout photo. (REUTERS/Army Forces/Handout)

That is what most Colombians hope following the death of Alfonso Cano, head of the FARC guerrillas, in a bombing raid by President Juan Manuel Santos' forces on Friday.

But if others successfully take up the fight, the Marxist-inspired FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, could continue its drug-financed activities -- including killing and hostage-taking -- perhaps for years.

"The death of Alfonso Cano does not mean the end of the FARC, which is likely to move quickly to appoint a new commander," said IHS Jane's analyst Robert Munks.

"From a position of strength, President Santos will now be well-placed to promote a peace process involving a negotiated solution to the insurgency at the same time as maintaining military pressure."

Clean-shaven and without his trademark spectacles, the 63-year-old Cano was photographed after being killed along with his girlfriend and several other FARC fighters by special forces who rappelled down from helicopters.

His death leaves a power vacuum in the FARC that could push it down the road to peace, or deeper into bloodshed and disarray, as its political, military and drug-trafficking wings jockey for position.

"It requires a very special type of leader to promote peace talks. There is a danger it could become another narco crime gang," said local analyst Juan Carlos Palou, referring to Colombia's right-wing paramilitary groups.

Despite being granted amnesty in 2006, many heavily armed former paramilitaries continue to roam the country, killing and trafficking drugs.

Cano replaced FARC founder Manuel Marulanda, who died of a heart attack in 2008.

The FARC once had as many as 17,000 combatants who moved almost freely across great swathes of jungle and mountains. But it has been battered by more than a decade of U.S.-funded attacks that have depleted and demoralized its fighting force.

Funded mainly by the cocaine trade, the rebels are unlikely to give up their battle with the government easily.

While an immediate end to the war is doubtful, Cano's death may disorient the group as it seeks to replace him, stemming violence that has killed tens of thousands over the years.

Ivan Marquez is the most likely among the FARC's seven-member secretariat to take over from Cano, analysts say.

A negotiator who took part in talks with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to free hostages held by the rebels, Marquez is believed to be hiding in neighboring Venezuela.

Another possible successor is Timoleon Jimenez, also known as Timochenko, who is thought to have set up the FARC's cocaine production and distribution structures.

"There's no leader with the experience Cano had," independent security analyst Alfredo Rangel said.

"It will be hard to get someone to replace him. It will breed inertia in the ranks ... The best they can do is negotiate peace because time is running out for them."


Cano's death provides a big boost to President Juan Manuel Santos, who has been criticized in recent months for a surge in small-scale rebel attacks across the nation.

Santos, who took office last year pledging to step up pressure on the group, cautioned Colombians on Saturday against becoming "triumphalist," warning that the fight would continue until Colombia was at peace.

While the FARC has expressed interest in talks, Santos has rejected any notion of discussions until the group stops killing and kidnapping.

"This is a big hit against the FARC and a triumph for Santos," said former High Commissioner for Peace Camilo Gomez.

"It shows that, contrary to what some say, Colombia's military is not demoralized. It is further evidence of the defeat the FARC is suffering."

As its support shrinks, the FARC has resorted to recruiting children to plant land mines to push back the military and boost its rank and file as adult fighters shy away from the harsh conditions within the group.

Discipline in the FARC is brutal. Insubordination is met with a bullet in the back of the head. While the FARC calls itself the people's army, fighting for the rights of the rural poor, former fighters say ideological discussion is scarce.

Demoralized by an offensive that has pushed it deeper into inhospitable jungle, where food, medicines and clothing take months to reach the mostly adolescent and peasant recruits, the FARC may be ready to consider a political way out of the war.

A demobilized rebel provided the intelligence that led to the successful raid on Cano's camp, Santos said, evidence that the group appeared to be slipping into crisis.

Helped by U.S. technical support, the government has hobbled the FARC's once-sophisticated communication system. Until a few years ago, rebel commanders could use radios to communicate from the north to the south of the country, meaning they could easily plan their attacks and procure weaponry.

That is now no longer the case because of measures taken by the authorities to block those signals.

Disease, desertion and casualties have cut the FARC's ranks by half from its peak in 2000 before former President Alvaro Uribe took office and launched fresh offensives.

Considered terrorists by Washington and the European Union, the FARC was founded in 1964 as a rural insurgency. Its founder Manuel Marulanda, known as Sureshot, initially received support from the Soviet Union, Cuba and Colombia's Communist Party.

"The death of a FARC leader is easy for them; they just replace him," said Carlos Lozano of the Communist newspaper Voz. "But that is what is prolonging this war indefinitely."

(Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Andrew Cawthorne and Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Tastebud teasers

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 05:17 PM PDT

The Maverick Chef is all about constructing new cuisine.

FANCY nasi lemak ice cream? Or the happy symphony of sweet and savoury in a single souffle?

If you are excited, surprised or in pure disbelief, well, those are the reactions that one-star Michelin chef Alvin Leung hopes for.

"I want people to be blown away ... to go 'wow' when they see and taste my food," says the 50-year old, who was in Singapore last month to launch new TV series The Maverick Chef, which follows Leung on a culinary adventure across six Asian countries – Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Each episode in this six-part series finds Leung in a different capital city, where a host introduces him to a handful of her favourite local dishes at a location renowned for those particular foods. For instance, Malaysia's TV personality Paula Malai Ali introduces him to nasi lemak at a restaurant in Kampung Baru, as well as sup tulang and durian tempoyak at Bijan restaurant on Jalan Ceylon in Kuala Lumpur. The local episodes were shot in May this year.

Further episodes will feature Thailand's beauty queen Cindy Burbridge, who acquaints Leung with red and green curry at Supatra River House, and Singapore's beauty queen Joanna Peh, who presents to him her country's popular chilli crab at No Signboard Seafood. Other hosts include Hong Kong entertainment artiste Bernice Liu, Indonesia's celebrity host Fitria Sechan and Taiwanese model and host Crystal Li.

After sampling and learning more about the dishes, Leung is then tasked with "deconstructing" them to create a three-course meal of his own.

At the end of the 30-minute episode, originators of those dishes (at the said restaurants) will offer their comments on Leung's new creations.

Thanks to Leung's commanding, audacious personality and unrestrained comments, the series is set to entertain home viewers and, perhaps, be intriguing enough to challenge amateur chefs to toy with unconventional recipes.

"It's not easy being a chef. You have to be smart and bold, you have to think fast and take risks," Leung bellows at his audience during the press event in Singapore, as he adds cinnamon, orange essence, cloves and egg yolks to a tea mix.

It is an Alvin Leung remake of teh talua (or teh telur, which is similar to teh tarik), a popular Indonesian beverage served at breakfast.

The audience watches in fascination – and part concern – as the maestro pours the concoction over a chunky cube of dry ice in a glass. Instantly, a rich froth rises to the tip of the cup, bubbling onto the stone counter.

"Smell that – it's as good as a smoke in the morning!" Leung enthuses. Evidently, he is enjoying the attention his concoction has garnered.

"For things to taste good, they have to taste comforting," he says matter-of-factly.

Interestingly in past interviews, Leung has called the kitchen "his lab" where he dabbles in science.

He says: "I think like an engineer, taking things apart and putting them together again, I try to change a few things about each recipe but keep the DNA intact."

"When I look at a dish, I consider its history and why it was invented that way at that time. Then, I contemporise it," he explains. "The dishes in my series are what I would serve in my own restaurant. I don't just whip up something that is not edible but looks good on TV."

Also known as the "Demon Chef", Leung owns Bo Innovation, a chic fine-dining restaurant on a small side street in Wanchai, one of Hong Kong's busiest districts, serving "X-Treme Chinese cuisine. Leung is about to set up another outlet in London soon.

As he demonstrates cooking beef rendang, he pooh-poohs in jest its traditional six-hour preparation time.

Leung explains that the broth was created at a time where refrigeration wasn't available, and these dished were infused with great amounts of salt so that they could last up to a month.

"That sort of beef will probably stay in your stomach for a month too!" he adds dryly, then adds his method would be to keep the original DNA in tact – that is the beef, the spices and coconut milk, which tenderises the meat. Then the rest can be dealt with in a quicker manner.

Leung likens this concept to Hong Kong's hotpot (locally known as steamboat), where the broth can be prepared just an hour beforehand. So Leung's version of beef rendang is a rich ketchup and spiced stew poured over paper thin slices of wagyu beef and vermicelli soaked in coconut milk beforehand.

The Maverick Chef is based in Asia because there is a distinct difference in how the food tastes even though many of the countries are in close proximity.

"I want viewers to understand how exciting food is when there are so many different styles of preparation. People must be wowed by it," he says.

Born in London and raised in Toronto, Canada, Leung learned how to cook his own meals by the time he was 11 because his mother was (in his own words) "an awful cook".

"I've been cooking for a long time now but it's only been six years since I started cooking professionally as a chef," explains Leung, who holds a degree in engineering. "People say that what starts out as a hobby can lose its appeal when it becomes work, but as long as you accept and create something new all the time, you can make your career a happy one," Leong theorises.

A number of international chefs have been partial to his inspiration, among them chef Ferran Adria of elBulli, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in Catalonia, Spain, "because he is brave"; and Paul Bocuse, a French chef known for his savvy and innovative approach to cuisine.

"You risk criticism for trying out something new but I like the attention, and I like to impress," Leung says.

In the kitchen, he is a perfectionist and not afraid to show it. Even when the camera is on him, there's nothing to stop Leung from barking at his staff to ensure that things go exactly as he's envisioned.

"Even if the customer is oblivious to the fact that the meat has been overcooked – or even enjoys it that way – that's just not acceptable," he says. "It's important to be passionate and intelligent – it's how you get noticed."

Still in the pipeline is a second instalment to The Maverick Chef series, which is likely to see Leung taking on other Asian countries and cuisines.

"Because we're Asian, we know this region has so much to offer in terms of food," he explains. "It will be a good challenge since many interesting ideas have been used in this pilot series."

>The Maverick Chef premieres at 9pm on Nov 13 on the Li Channel (Astro B.yond Ch 706).

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More in store

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 01:10 AM PST

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Proton wants incentive policy for electric vehicles

Posted: 04 Nov 2011 10:42 PM PDT

SURREY: Proton Holdings Bhd, hopes the government will look into an incentive policy or offer rebate for electric vehicles (EVs) to spur Malaysians to move to EVs.

Its green tech department board project director Datuk Zainuddin Che Din said the cost of the vehicle ownership was among the challenges in the implementation of the EVs or hybrid vehicles initiatives.

He said the Green Project Team was working with the United Kingdom-based Frazer-Nash Research Ltd to develop the Proton Saga EV and Proton Exora Extended Range EV (REEV), expected to roll out in the first half of 2013.

Citing examples, he pointed out that the US government provided a US$7,500 tax credit, the Chinese government provided subsidies of up to US$8,800 for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and UK Plug-in Car Grant offered a 25% discount up or up to a maximum 5,000 pounds for a new car.

He added that Proton had targeted to roll out the Exora REEV and Persona Electric Vehicles (EV) by 2013, and would likely spend about RM200mil until the end of the Fleet Test Vehicle (FTV) programme. Zainuddin said the amount was for the period between the project began in 2008 till 2012.

He said the national car maker had applied for a grant and the government had agreed to give.

"A grant was promised but we haven't receive yet, so till then Proton will have to fork out its own money for the project. Once we receive the grant, only then we can offset it with the money spent," he told Bernama after a media briefing on the progress of electrification plans for Proton cars.

Besides that amount, Zainuddin said Proton foresees that it would likely have to invest another 10% to 20% of the RM200mil for the next phase.

Exora REEV is a plug-in Hybrid model with an on-board charger and grid charging capability to charge the battery pack to offer the best fuel economy.

The Government is discussing with Tenaga Nasional Bhd on the probable charges. "Proton is facilitating the talks," he said.

Lotus, Proton's wholly owned subsidiary, has secured 10.4mil from the Regional Growth Fund Grants from the British government to help create job opportunities.

Meanwhile, its managing director Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said in Beijing that the new model to be introduced by Proton next year was not a replacement model for Proton Persona. He said the new model, tentatively called "P3-21A", was a totally new car, with a new design and no carry-over from Persona at all.

Designed to meet legislative requirements of all possible markets, the world-class model would be powered by the Campro turbo engine, he said. Syed Zainal Abidin said the new model was also one of the two models to be produced in China as part of Proton's collaboration with Beijing-based Hawtai Motor Group Ltd. The other model is Proton Exora. - Bernama

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Markets rise on easing of eurozone concern

Posted: 04 Nov 2011 08:57 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Buoyed by overnight gains on Wall Street and Europe, after Greece called off its referendum on a European Union (EU) bailout and the European Central Bank (ECB) unexpectedly announced a surprise interest cut, Asian markets rebounded strongly yesterday.

The local bourse saw the benchmark FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) rising 15.14 points, or 1.04%, to close at 1,477.51 points. Gainers led losers 591 to 194, while 248 counters were unchanged. Volume was heavy at 2.3 billion shares worth RM1.5bil.

Gains in the Malaysian stock market were led by the rise of blue-chip counters, such as Genting Bhd (up 44 sen to RM10.80); CIMB Group Holdings Bhd (17 sen to RM7.36); Tenaga Nasional Bhd (16 sen to RM5.88); IOI Corp Bhd (13 sen to RM5.21) and Bhd (82 sen to RM33.30).

Analysts explained that calling off the referendum would moved Greece nearer to accept the much-needed EU bailout package to help with its rising debt problems; hence reducing investor concern of financial instability spreading throughout in the region. Sentiment was also lifted by ECB's surprise rate cut, which was seen as being supportive of the region's faltering economy.

In other Asian markets, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index saw a rise of 600.29 points, or 3.12%, to 19,842.79, while Singapore's Straits Times Index rose 38.20 points, or 1.36%, to 2,848.24.

Shanghai's A share index rose 20.20 points to 2,528.29, while Japan's Nikkei gained 160.98 points to 8,801.40 and South Korea's Kospi was up 58.45 points to 1,928.41.

MIDF equity analyst Syed Muhammed Kifni said in his report, "We are under no illusion that the eurozone debt issue is going to simply fade away; nor do we discount the possibility that the situation may turn for the worse, especially if the economic performance and sovereign financial position of the other PIIGS, in particular the "too big to bail" countries, namely Italy and Spain, deteriorate further." (PIIGS is the acronym for Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.)

Meanwhile, recent data from the United States continued to suggest that the world's largest economy was sluggish. Both the manufacturing and services industries expanded at slower pace, while consumer confidence deteriorated. The US Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index fell from 51.6 in September to 50.8 last month, while the gauge for non-manufacturing fell from 53 to 52.9. A reading above 50 still indicates growth.

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

O'Brien, 18, youngest jockey to win Breeders' race

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 06:45 PM PDT

Published: Sunday November 6, 2011 MYT 9:46:00 AM

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Eighteen-year-old Joseph O'Brien became the oungest jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race when he piloted Irish raider St Nicholas Abbey to an easy victory in the $3 million Turf Saturday.

O'Brien is the son of St Nicholas Abbey trainer Aidan O'Brien, who claimed his second Breeders' Cup race of the day after winning the Juvenile Turf earlier with Wrote.

St Nicholas Abbey took the lead in the stretch and hit the wire two and one-quarter lengths ahead of English raider Sea Moon. Brilliant Speed finished third in the field of nine.

"It's a dream come true," the younger O'Brien said after the mile and one-half race.

He added: "I've been coming to the Breeders' Cup since I was very small, but to ride here and ride a winner - it's out of this world."

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Frazier severely ill with cancer, says manager

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 06:45 PM PDT

Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who earned boxing immortality after three epic fights with Muhammad Ali, is in hospice care with liver cancer, his manager said Saturday.

"Smokin' Joe" Frazier, 67, was diagnosed with liver cancer about a month ago after meeting with more than one doctor and is now in hospice care in Philadelphia, his business and personal manager of seven years, Leslie Wolff, told Reuters.

"We are doing everything we can ... but I would be a liar if I did not tell you it is very serious," Wolff said.

Wolff said Frazier, who won the Olympic heavyweight boxing gold medal for the United States in 1964 in Tokyo and held the world heavyweight boxing crown from 1970 to 1973, was in a "very painful and serious situation."

But Wolff added: "Joe is a fighter. Joe doesn't give up."

Doctors are still exploring various medical options for Frazier, who has 11 children.

Frazier is eternally linked with Ali thanks to their trilogy of fights in the 1970s which rank among the most famous ever in the sport. Frazier won the first and Ali took the next two.

Frazier won the world heavyweight title in 1970, knocking out champion Jimmy Ellis, after Ali had been stripped of the championship in 1967 for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War due to his Muslim beliefs.


Ali was reinstated in boxing and met Frazier on March 8, 1971 at New York's Madison Square Garden, in a bout billed as "The Fight of the Century." Frazier sent Ali to the canvas with a left hook in the 15th round. Ali got up but Frazier won by unanimous decision.

That brutal encounter left both men hospitalised and Frazier later lost his title in 1973 to the hard-hitting George Foreman.

The second Ali-Frazier fight was on January 28, 1974, again at Madison Square Garden, with Ali winning a 12-round decision.

Ali then beat Foreman to reclaim the championship and he went on to defend it in the third Frazier fight on October 1, 1975, in a fabled encounter in the Philippines known as "The Thrilla in Manila."

The two punished each other for 14 rounds, then Frazier's trainer and cornerman Eddie Futch stopped the fight before the 15th while Frazier fumed in the ring corner with one of his eyes swollen shut. Frazier never forgave Futch for giving Ali a victory by technical knockout.

Frazier, who was born in segregated South Carolina in 1944 as the youngest of 12 children, amassed a career record of 32-4-1.

He retired after a second loss to Foreman in 1976, then came out of retirement for a fight in 1981 before ending his career for good. His only losses were to Ali and Foreman.

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Del Potro's Tour finals bid checked by Granollers

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 04:14 PM PDT

VALENCIA, Spain, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Juan Martin Del Potro's chances of securing a berth at this month's World Tour finals dwindled when the Argentine was upset 6-4 7-6 by unseeded Spaniard Marcel Granollers in the semi-finals of the Valencia Open on Saturday.

Del Potro's defeat means Czech Tomas Berdych, who lost to Japan's Kei Nishikori in the first round in Basel this week, becomes the sixth player to qualify for the eight-man, season-ending event in London, the ATP said on their website (

"It feels great to qualify for the second consecutive year," said Berdych, who made his debut at the finals last year. "It was one of my goals at the beginning of 2011 and my results have been very consistent this season."

Del Potro, the sixth seed in Valencia, would have overtaken Nicolas Almagro in ninth in the Tour finals race had he beaten Granollers, but now has only next week's Paris Masters left to clinch a place at the O2 Arena.

The 2009 U.S. Open champion, runner-up to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Vienna, had looked to be getting back to something near his best after more than eight months out last year with a wrist injury.

However, Granollers continued his impressive form at the Spanish indoor hardcourt event, where he lost in last year's final to compatriot David Ferrer. BITTER TASTE Del Potro, due to represent Argentina in next month's Davis Cup final against Spain, said he would have to win in Paris to have a chance of qualifying for the finals. "Right now I am just thinking about Paris and the Davis Cup," the 23-year-old told a news conference. "You learn from every defeat and there is not much time until the last tournament of the year so it's important to shake off any bitter taste." The 2011 title match in Valencia will not be a repeat of last year's final after top seed Ferrer was beaten 7-5 1-6 6-3 by Argentine wildcard Juan Monaco in Saturday's second semi. Ferrer, the world number five, has already qualified for the Nov. 20-27 Tour finals along with Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Frenchman Tsonga and American Mardy Fish are currently in seventh and eighth in the finals race.

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Snow White project named ''Mirror, Mirror''

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 01:15 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap): Relativity's Snow White project finally has a title.

The re-imagining of the fairy tale will be called ''Mirror Mirror,'' the studio announced on Friday.

''Mirror Mirror'' stars Lily Collins as Snow White, Armie Hammer as the prince and Julia Roberts as the evil queen.

Tarsem Singh directs.

Filming for the comedy action adventure wrapped in mid-September. The theatrical release date is set for March 16, 2012.

Universal has its own competing Snow White project starring Kristen Stewart. That film version of the story of the poisoned apple eating ingenue is entitled ''Snow White and the Huntsman.'' That film bows in theaters on June 1, 2012.

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Steve Jobs 'Lost' interview lands in movie theaters

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 01:13 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap): Add movie star to the many accomplishments of the late Steve Jobs.

One of Steve Jobs' most memorable TV interviews appeared in the 1995 PBS miniseries ''Triumph of the Nerds.'' Just 10 minutes of footage of Jobs at his bitter best - he'd just been ousted from Apple, the company he co-founded - made it into the documentary, but the special's filmmaker has turned up the complete 70-minute interview he conducted with Jobs.

The complete chat, titled ''Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview,'' will be released for a two-day-only showing in Landmark Theaters on Nov. 16 and 17.

Robert Cringely, the producer of ''Triumph of the Nerds,'' thought the original tape of his interview with Jobs had been lost. But the tape resurfaced after Jobs' Oct. 5 death, and Cringely tells the Los Angeles Times that an email exchange with Landmark owner Mark Cuban led to a deal to turn the VHS tape interview into a big-screen worthy project.

''Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview'' includes Jobs thoughts on the company that he felt had betrayed him, and lighter moments, according to Cringely, like Jobs' anecdote about pretending to be Henry Kissinger and prank calling the pope.

''He was great that day,'' Cringely told the Times. ''He was a cranky guy. I think we see that.''

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‘Prison Break’ star on the loose in Malaysia

Posted: 04 Nov 2011 07:18 PM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: Prison Break star Dominic Purcell is here to film his latest movie, Vikingdom, produced by Malaysia's KRU studios.

The action-adventure epic, directed by Yusry Abdul Halim, is based on Nordic mythology.

"The mythic elements and heroic principles in the film appealed to me on many levels," said Purcell, 41.

The British-Australian actor is best known for his role as Lincoln Burrows in the hit TV series Prison Break.

Vikingdom also stars British actors Craig Fairbrass and Jon Foo, and Norwegian actress Natassia Malthe.

The film follows the success of KRU's Malay-language epic Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa (The Malay Chronicles), released early this year.

The studio's executive president Norman Abdul Halim said they wanted the country to become a top filming location for producers and studios worldwide.

"We believe that the scope and quality of the film, as well as having these international stars on board, will convince people of what we can do."

The stereoscopic 3D production began filming in Perak last month.

It is targeted for a worldwide release in early 2013.

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Three in family killed in accident on East Coast Expressway

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 04:50 AM PDT

KUANTAN: Three in a family were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in crashed at KM244.9 of the East Coast Expressway near Jabor early Saturday, believed to be due to a punctured tyre.

Pahang traffic enforcement officer ASP Zainalabidin Othman said the victims were travelling with three other family members from Shah Alam to Kuala Terengganu when the incident occurred at 3.15am.

All the victims were thrown out of the MPV they were in, he said.

The dead were identified as the driver Maliki Abdullah, 47, his daughter Nur Izzati, 21, and son Muhammad Hafiz, six.

They were killed on the spot due to severe injuries, he said.

The three others, whose identities are still unknown, are being treated at the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital in Kuantan.

The six were believed to be on their way to celebrate Aidiladha in Kuala Terengganu.

Meanwhile, in Tangkak, a policeman was killed when his Proton Wira crashed into a truck laden with tar along KM15 of the TangkakMuar road.

Kpl Peter Benedict Francis, 43, who is attached with the Muar police station, died on the spot due to serious injuries while the driver of the truck was unhurt.

The policeman was returning to his house in Tangkak when his car crashed with the truck at about 9.40am Saturday, according to Ledang deputy police chief Deputy Supt Mohd Salleh Abdul Razak.

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MCA: Make pass in English compulsory for SPM

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 04:04 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: While the MCA welcomes the decision made on the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy, it is now calling for the language to be made a compulsory pass subject for SPM.

"We should work towards making English a compulsory pass subject in the SPM examination and also to make English literature a compulsory subject in school," said party president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

On the policy, he said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin had paved the way for clear guidelines on the matter and put an end to any confusion.

In a statement Saturday, Dr Chua said the Government had listened to the voices of the rakyat in coming up with a win-win situation for all stakeholders concerned.

It was also the party's fervent hope for the Education Ministry to emphasise on the usage of English to equip Malaysians with the universal language to keep up with the rest of the world, he added.

"The MCA would like to reaffirm its stand that all Malaysians should be multi-lingual to ensure we are more competitive in the globalised world," said Dr Chua.

In Friday's announcement, Muhyiddin - also the Education Minister - said the current batch of Year Two to Form Four students would continue under the policy until they completed their secondary education.

Year One pupils this year are already learning the two subjects in Bahasa Malaysia.

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Groups warns of 'largest mobilisation of rakyat' if polls held before reforms

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 03:38 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A new coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Saturday warned it would organise the "largest mobilisation of the rakyat" the country has ever seen if the Government proceeds to call for snap polls without implementing electoral reforms.

The yet-to-be-named coalition said it was concerned over speculation and alleged "inside information" claiming that a snap general election would be called as soon as next month.

Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) chairman and PKR leader Badrul Hisham Shaharin, also known as Chegubard, said the public expected the Government to live up to its promise of implementing "serious reforms" in Malaysia's electoral system.

"It does not matter who gave us the information. What is more important is that the general election must not be called without total reform that can convince the people they will have free and fair elections," he said at a press conference at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall here.

Others present were Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) president Haris Ibrahim, P Jenapala of the Indian Justice Party, Parti Rakyat Malaysia representative Dr Rohana Ariffin and Devadas Silvaraju from the League of Unemployed Graduates.

Haris claimed they had received "credible information" that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak was "intent" on dissolving Parliament on Nov 11 to make way for polls on Dec 10.

He said if the Government did not want to suffer a public backlash, Najib should come out and reassure all Malaysians that polls will not be called until the promised electoral reforms were in place.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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All blood, no sparkles

Posted: 04 Nov 2011 01:56 AM PDT

American Vampire is about bad guy vampires, plain and simple. And revenge.

American Vampire Vol.1 & 2
Authors: Scott Snyder (Vol.1 & 2), Stephen King (Vol.1)
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Publisher: Vertigo/mature readers

We'll resist the temptation to say that the Eisner Award-winning American Vampire is a graphic novel that you can "really sink your teeth into", or that it's a "bloody good" read. In fact, we'll make it a point not to use any vampire cliches in writing this review, because turning into a cliche is exactly the problem that vampires are facing nowadays.

The way we see it, back in Bram Stoker's day, the original Dracula was a monster to be legitimately feared, but his modern day progeny have turned into, well, romanticised softies. At best, they're tormented, misunderstood pretty boys (or bishounen, if you like manga) and at worst, they sparkle. It almost makes you forget that the children of the night are supposed to be terrifying creatures.

Fortunately, American Vampire is here to remedy this problem. The vampires in this series are neither nice nor pretty, and they're not here to make the womenfolk swoon. These vampires are all about killing, betrayal, the corruption of good people, and more killing.

The premise of the series is that there are many species of vampires in the world, each plying their dark trade among the unsuspecting and hapless members of the human race. These sophisticated yet brutal immortals revel in the shadows of human society, making obscure power plays and feeding on humans as if they were cattle.

Unfortunately for the established, aristocratic vampires from the Old World, there's a new kind of vampire in town, a race born on the New World soil and a species that doesn't play well with others: the American vampires.

Skinner Sweet, an unrepentant outlaw and sadistic murderer from the American Old West, is the first of his kind. Unlike the traditional vampires from Europe, he's unsophisticated, immune to wooden stakes, powered by sunlight and doesn't play by anybody's rules. A bad boy among bad people, when Sweet rises from his grave, he proceeds to tear through both vampires and humans across multiple decades in America's history.

The first volume of American Vampire, with 192 pages and collecting issues #1-5 in the series, consists of two interwoven storylines.

One explores the origins of Skinner Sweet in the American Old West. Skinner's origin story really showcases how dangerous – yet utterly captivating – a real vampire can be.

The other storyline follows the tale of Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress in 1920s Hollywood who gets caught in the crossfire of a secret war between vampires. Pearl helps ground the supernatural tale of terror with strong human elements, and her tale is rife with the familiar themes of betrayal and revenge.

The second volume, with 160 pages and collecting issues #6-11, shifts the scene to Las Vegas in 1936, where police chief Cashel McCogan (unaided by any form of CSI) has to solve the mystery of the murders of several people linked to the construction of the Boulder Dam. While the narrative of a hardboiled detective hunting down a supernatural murderer is engrossing its own, what really sells American Vampire Vol.2 is how the various loose ends from the previous volume coalesce to form the threads of an entirely new story.

This is one of the things that we liked about American Vampire: its narrative scope and continuity.

The immortal nature of vampires lets American Vampire's story span multiple generations, and it's fascinating to see how vampires secretly steer the progress of human civilisation, how the mysteries behind the vampire species are revealed piece by piece, and, most importantly, how the characters (and their offspring) grow and evolve through periods of turmoil. We see acts of petty revenge cascade into bloody vendettas, and we see ordinary humans rise up to become noble heroes who battle against the bestial cruelties of the undead.

The writing is rock solid, thanks to the combined efforts of Scott Snyder (a writer known for several DC titles and his short story collection, Voodoo Heart) and Stephen King (don't pretend you don't know who he is), but American Vampire would not have worked as well if it didn't enjoy Rafael Albuquerque's (who illustrated DC's Blue Beetle) fully coloured illustrations.

Albuquerque's dark art style is a perfect fit for the atmosphere of the story; this is most notable when the fangs start showing and the blood starts flowing. You get to see every little bit of horrible detail that reinforces exactly why vampires need to be staked, not hugged or romanced.

Additionally, he goes the extra mile in the first volume, where he illustrates the Skinner's story and Pearl's story in two distinct styles: Skinner's is rough and dirty to capture the wild west setting, while Pearl's features sharp, high-contrast colours to capture the glamour of the early Hollywood era.

There are many, many reasons for us to recommend American Vampire: there's the engaging, interwoven storylines that span multiple generations; the believable, heroic human personalities that serve as a perfect counterbalance to the cruelty of the undead; and the brilliant artwork that captures both the glory days of ol' America and the bloody, ruthless terror of vampires in action.

But honestly, the real reason we'd tell our friends to read American Vampire is that it has such a refreshing take on vampires. The series builds such an engaging mythology in its storyline that it succeeds in turning an established trope in media – the popular undead beings we call vampires – into something new, exciting and believably terrifying.

In a time where the children of the night have become rather cliche, it's good to see a vampire story that doesn't suck.

American Vampire Vol.1 and Vol.2 are available at Kinokuniya KLCC.

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The search for self

Posted: 04 Nov 2011 01:42 AM PDT

A debut novel flawlessly explores a terrifying idea.

Before I Go to Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Publisher: Doubleday, 366 pages

THERE are certain books that get at you with one simple, unnerving idea. In this one, it is that amnesia can be so acute that, every day, your mind works from a complete blank. So you wake up in the morning and you remember nothing that has gone before.

The person lying next to you in bed is a stranger; you have never seen that room before; you look in the mirror and the person you see looks many years older than you; you are ignorant of the layout of the house or what is in the fridge. In short, every day is a new beginning and marks a new start in the process of trying to remember who and what you are. And you have only until bedtime to put the pieces together because when you wake again it will be back to square one.

This is a chilling concept, one based according to the author's note on the lives of several amnesiac patients. One can only begin to imagine the hell that their lives and the lives of those around them must have become. It is surely no coincidence that Alzheimer's is one of the most feared conditions, for to have no memory is surely, ultimately, to have no self. The thought terrifies, and S.J. Watson is keen to explore it in all its horror in this striking debut novel.

The book opens, indeed, with Christine in bed, looking at the man next to her and wondering who he is. Her immediate assumption is that she has engaged in some adulterous affair. "I see an expanse of skin and dark hair, flecked with white. A man. He has his left arm outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third finger of the hand. I suppress a groan. So this one is not only old and grey, I think, but also married."

But the man in the bed claims to be Ben, her husband. He has cared for her throughout her illness, since an accident some 20 years ago. And every day he has answered the same questions and addressed the same concerns. Or has he? If so, why does her journal have inscribed in the front, "Don't trust Ben"?

To keep a journal is the suggestion of Dr Edmund Nash. Nash is a neuropsychologist who has offered to help Christine remember and recover. Implicit in this process is the belief that if she can revisit the trauma at the heart of her condition, then she may be able to recover from the resulting amnesia. This treatment is a secret kept from Ben who would not approve. So every day, Nash phones Christine to tell her to read her journal and Christine is able to get some understanding of what she learnt the previous day and the day before that. The journal effectively becomes her memory and because she is not starting from scratch all the time, it means she is able to make some sort of progress.

It is also, of course, a straightforward literary narrative device that enables the reader to get inside Christine's head and slowly piece together her past. We share with her the confusions that this inevitably brings up. What did she do before the accident? Did she publish a novel? If so, why does Ben tell her she did not? The stretch marks on her stomach suggest she had a child – so where is that child now and is Ben telling the truth when he says that Adam became a soldier and was killed in Afghanistan? He says that he denies these things to save her from more pain. But as more of the past unravels, more and more questions arise. Perhaps inevitably, few things turn out to be what they seem.

Before I Go To Sleep is a gripping and disturbing read that moves at a smart pace towards its violent and chilling climax. It would be unfair to give away anything other than to say that Christine's search for her very own heart of darkness is largely convincing and always compelling. Her dependency on her journal occasionally slows down the action but the plotting is careful and the loose ends are neatly tied.

This is a book in which the idea carries all before it, blessed by pretty much flawless execution. Its author worked in Britain's National Health Service for a number of years before being accepted onto a Faber Academy "Writing A Novel" course. Before I Go To Sleep is a product of the course, one that has received considerable acclaim and been snapped up by Ridley Scott's film production company, Scott Free. Rowan Joffe is due to direct. This is a dream start for a first novel and it is well deserved. Handled with care, it will make a good film. But get in first and read the book.

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Whale of a tale

Posted: 04 Nov 2011 01:40 AM PDT

The Longest Whale Song
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Illustrator: Nick Sharratt
Publisher: Corgi, 320 pages

ELLA'S mother ends up in a coma after giving birth to her new baby brother and Ella is forced to make her peace with her new stepdad. At school, she loses a best friend and copes with a bully, but her new friend Joseph shares her enthusiasm for whales and becomes an unexpected source of support in the midst of Ella's troubled life.

The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse
Author & Illustrator: Eric Carle
Publisher: Philomel, 32 pages

The artist in every child is celebrated and encouraged in this picture book that depicts the world as a child might see it – in a myriad of vibrant, unexpected colours. There's a red crocodile, an orange elephant, and a purple fox. More than anything, there's imagination. Filled with some of the most magnificently colourful animals of Eric Carle's career, this tribute to creativity celebrates the power of art.

The Conductor
Illustrator: Laetitia Devernay
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 72 pages

An orchestra conductor and a grove of trees are paired with surprising and inspiring results. Laetitia Devernay's illustrations are full of beautiful details that allow this wordless story to come alive as the conductor coaxes a symphony from the leaves and wind.

Can We Save The Tiger?
Author: Martin Jenkins
Illustrator: Vicky White
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 56 pages

Tigers are pretty special – and so are ground iguanas and partula snails and even white-rumped vultures. But these and many other animals are in danger of disappearing altogether, joining the dodo, the great auk, and countless other animals we will never see again. Using the experiences of a few endangered species as examples, Martin Jenkins highlights the ways human behaviour can either threaten or conserve the animals that share our planet. Vicky White's stunning portraits of rare creatures offer a glimpse of nature's grace and and give us a powerful reason to preserve it.

Lights on the Nile
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Publisher: HarperCollins, 288 pages

This exciting story, set in ancient Egypt, is about Kepi, a young girl whose quiet life at home is disrupted when she and her pet baboon, Babu, are kidnapped and held captive in a boat bound for the capital city of Ineb-Hedj. Will Kepi ever see her family again? Will she realise that she has powers that lie deep within her, waiting to be unleashed for the good of all Egypt?

I Want My Hat Back
Author & Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 40 pages

A bear has lost its hat and is desperate to get it back. He questions every woodland animal he comes across but they have not seen his pointy, red hat. But what about the rabbit? He was wearing a hat and surely it was ... pointy, and ... red! The bear wants his hat back!

Author: Gretchen McBeil
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, 384 pages

At 15, Bridget should be worrying about acne and boys, not how to use her ability to communicate with and banish demons. Nevertheless, Bridget finds some satisfaction in helping Monsignor Ranault with the people of San Francisco who become dangerously possessed. However, things get out of hand when Bridget's best friend is killed. Will Bridget be able to prevent more deaths and stop the king of demons from possessing those close to her?

Author & Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 608 pages

If you loved The Invention Of Hugo Cabret (made into a 3D movie by Martin Scorsese, out later this month), you'll be pleased that Brian Selznick has used the same storytelling style for this story of Ben and Rose. The two children are actually living in different eras but both share their different lives. Selznick tells Ben's story in words, while Rose's tale is told in pictures. Both narratives unfold with wondrous symmetry, finally intersecting for an ending that will delight and satisfy.

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