Ahad, 6 November 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Iran's Ahmadinejad defiant as U.S. raises heat - paper


CAIRO (Reuters) - The United States fears Iran's growing military power because it is now able to compete with Israel and the West, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in comments carried by an Egyptian newspaper on Monday.

Responding to a toughening stance from the United States and Israel against Tehran, Ahmadinejad accused Washington of inventing conspiracies to discredit Iran and sowing discord with its near neighbour Saudi Arabia.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greets journalists before the start of a news conference in Tehran May 25, 2009. (REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/Files)

"Yes, we have military capabilities that are different from any other country in the region," Egyptian daily al-Akhbar cited Ahmadinejad as saying. "Iran is increasing in capability and advancement and therefore we are able to compete with Israel and the West and especially the United States."

"The U.S. fears Iran's capability," he told the paper. "Iran will not permit (anyone from making) a move against it."

Iran's Islamic rulers, who say Israel has no right to exist, deny accusations that they are seeking nuclear weapons and have warned they will respond to any attacks by striking at Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf.

A senior U.S. military official said on Friday Iran had become the biggest threat to the United States and Israel's president said the military option to stop the Islamic republic from obtaining nuclear weapons was nearer.

Ahmadinejad repeated that Iran does not own a nuclear bomb, but said Israel's end was inevitable.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is expected this week to issue its most detailed report yet on research in Iran seen as geared to developing atomic bombs.

"It is Israel that has about 300 nuclear warheads. Iran is only keen to have nuclear capability for peaceful means," he said, accusing Washington of lumping Iran with Syria, the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The U.S. portrays those four as "the Axis of Evil to save the Zionist entity (Israel). But the Zionists are bound to go out of existence," he said.

Responding to a U.S. claim that Iran was involved in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Ahmadinejad said: "Iran is farthest from thinking of carrying out such crimes but the U.S. is always inventing conspiracies against Iran".

"The U.S. fears any friendship between us and Saudi Arabia and therefore incites disagreements," he said. "To stop the U.S. in its tracks we must deepen the elements of friendship... We are ready for this and the relation between Saudi and Iran already exists and has not been cut off."

(Reporting by Marwa Awad; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Intrigue, betrayal in Rome as Berlusconi fights on


ROME (Reuters) - With Silvio Berlusconi's fate resting on a group of party rebels threatening to pull the rug from under his government next week, the Italian prime minister is using carrot and stick to try to win over the doubters and pull off yet another parliamentary escape.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attends a debate at the Parliament in Rome October 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files)

Estimates vary widely over how many centre-right deputies will jump ship in a crunch vote on public finance in the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday. Berlusconi's message to potential "traitors" is clear: you have nowhere else to go and you will be rewarded if you stay.

The 75-year-old media tycoon has defied all calls to step down and is adamant that he can battle on.

"We have checked in the last few hours and the numbers are certain, we still have a majority," he told party followers on Sunday.

Newspapers have estimated the number of potential defectors at between 20 and 40, which would be more than enough to bring down the government, but in previous narrow escapes Berlusconi has proved his powers of last-minute persuasion.

He has been meeting and telephoning rebels since he returned from a humiliating international summit in France on Friday which agreed the International Monetary Fund would visit Italy quarterly to check its progress in passing long-delayed reforms.

A deputy from his ruling coalition said after meeting Berlusconi that the premier was ready to reward doubters with "well-deserved jobs" in government. Berlusconi said on Friday defectors would be "betraying the government and the country".

Italy is the third biggest economy in the euro zone and its political woes and debt worries are seen as a huge threat in the wider crisis facing the single currency.

Berlusconi's latest assurance over his majority may be bad news for Italian bonds, which sold off again on Friday to push their yield to a record euro-era high above 6.4 percent. The spread over German bunds, reflecting the higher risk premium investors place on Italy, also hit a record above 4.6 percentage points.

Bond prices would recover and the yield spread would fall by a full percentage point if the government should fall, according to a Reuters survey of 10 fund managers, market analysts and strategists last week.

Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti was forced to deny reports that he had forecast a "catastrophe" on financial markets next week unless Berlusconi stepped down.


European Central Bank council member Yves Mersch underscored the high stakes on Sunday, saying in a press interview that the ECB frequently debates the option of ending its purchases of Italian bonds unless Rome delivers on reforms. [ID:nR1E7LJ00V]

Without that bond-buying programme, the run on Italian bonds would probably already have spiralled way out of control.

ANALYSIS-Berlusconi cannot deliver reforms [ID:nL6E7M433Z]


Berlusconi on Sunday rejected talk of being succeeded by an unelected technocrat government or a political administration with the backing of all the forces in parliament, saying: "The only alternative to this government would be elections."

He also seemed to be having second thoughts over the IMF monitoring, saying the initiative for the visits "came from us and we can withdraw it whenever we want".

Commentators say the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres are reminiscent of the so-called "first republic" that ruled Italy for nearly 50 years after World War Two, when new governments were constantly formed and dismantled in parliament by the many factions of the all-powerful Christian Democrat party.

Many of the centre-right waverers are ex-Christian Democrats and are being tempted by offers from the small, centrist UDC party to join forces behind a new government with broad cross-party support spanning both the centre-right and the opposition.

These negotiations will continue even if Berlusconi wins Tuesday's vote to ratify 2010 public accounts, with no let-up in the atmosphere of intrigue and above all uncertainty ahead of more key votes on budget measures due later this month.

Lower house speaker Gianfranco Fini, a former ally and now arch-enemy of the prime minister, made the point strongly when he appealed to Berlusconi to resign on Sunday.

"The government must understand that it is not credible even if it wins in parliament by a vote, because with a majority of one vote you can survive but you cannot govern".

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Syrian forces kill 13 at start of Eid, Arabs to meet


AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian forces shot dead at least 13 civilians on Sunday in a continued military assault on the restive city of Homs and in attacks on pro-democracy demonstrations that erupted after prayers marking the main Muslim feast, activists said.

Qatar's prime minister called for Arab states to meet next Saturday to weigh Syria's failure to implement a deal struck with the Arab League to end bloodshed that was touched off by the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Egyptian official news agency MENA said the gathering would address "the continuing violence and the government's failure to stick to its obligations under the Arab Action Plan to solve the crisis in Syria".

Arab leaders have ramped up criticism of Assad as the killings mounted, but are shied from demanding major political change in the country for fear chaos could ensue, given Syria's volatile sectarian divisions. Syria is dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect while Sunni Muslims form the majority.

Damascus has described increasing Arab criticism as unproductive and based on false media reports.

It says the unrest has arisen largely from a foreign conspiracy to divide Syria and that security forces are using legitimate means to confront "terrorists" and Islamist militants bent on wrecking a reform drive by Assad.

Opposition leaders say the protests are driven by broad discontent with a corrupt repressive elite, not by violent extremists, and that Assad's promises of reform have been discredited by his continuing military crackdown on protesters.

The official Syrian news agency said Assad went to the eastern provincial capital of Raqqa on Sunday where he joined Eid prayers with "a number of notables and popular, union and party organisations and a crowd of Raqqa citizens."

"The stand Syrians are making against terrorism and outside intervention is the basis for Syria's steadfastness," the SANA agency quoted Assad as saying.


Most of the deaths on Sunday occurred in Homs, 140 km (90 miles) north of Damascus, where a main district has been under tank bombardment since the day before Syrian authorities agreed in Cairo to the Arab League initiative on Wednesday.

Under the deal, the army was supposed to pull out of turbulent cities, political prisoners would go free and talks with the opposition would begin within two weeks.

A demonstrator was shot dead when security police fired at a protest in Hama, north of Homs, demanding the removal of Assad, and three were killed in the northwestern province of Idlib, said the activist Syrian Revolution General Commission.

The organisation said in a statement that at least 10 protesters were injured in the town of Talbisah near Homs and in Harra in the Hauran Plain in Syria's south.

Fifty protesters were arrested after a demonstration in the Damascus district of Kfrar Souseh. Troops and militiamen loyal to Assad deployed in several Damascus suburbs, surrounding mosques to prevent crowds from rallying after the early morning prayers for the feast of Eid al-Adha, the commission said.

"Idlib saw big demonstrations across its towns and villages this morning. There is disillusionment that the Arab League agreement has failed to curb the repression," local activist Raed Ayham told Reuters by phone.

"The army is escalating the crackdown in the hope of wrapping this uprising up before the Arabs take more steps against the regime. Assad has not understood that the killings are only feeding the opposition against him."

Syrian authorities have banned most non-official media since the revolt against 41 years of rule by the Assad family and their Baath Party erupted in March, making independent verification of events difficult.

Activists and residents said tank fire killed at least 13 civilians and wounded dozens in Homs on Saturday. The day before security forces killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens across Syria, mostly in shootings at protests. State media denied that any protesters had been killed on Friday.

The Syrian official news agency said a group of what it described as Homs notables met the provincial governor and agreed to "work together to achieve more stability and stopping armed terrorist groups from messing with the security of citizens and the homeland".

SANA quoted the governor as saying that the authorities were "serious" about implementing an amnesty announced last week to anyone with weapons if they were not involved in killings.

He said four soldiers and police, including two from Homs, killed in violence were buried on Sunday.

The authorities say Islamist militants and foreign-backed armed gangs have killed 1,100 members of the security forces during the uprising. The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown.

In Cairo on Saturday, the head of the Arab League said it was seriously concerned by the violence in Syria, and appealed to Damascus to abide by steps agreed with Arab states to protect civilians and set Syria on a course of political dialogue.

In an address to Syrians aired live on al Jazeera television, prominent opposition figure Burhan Ghalioun said the Syrian National Council, formed in Istanbul two months ago, had asked the Arab League and United Nations to help protect Syrian civilians by sending in international human rights monitors.

Western leaders have called for Assad to make way for a democratic succession. He has rejected such calls as interference. But, given Syria's location along fault lines of Middle East conflict, Western countries have shown no appetite for real intervention, such as with NATO air strikes that were key in the fall of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to a popular revolt.

Assad has been strengthening an alliance with Shi'ite Iran, started by his late father, President Hafez al-Assad, while continuing his policy of avoiding confrontation with Israel on the occupied Golan Heights frontier after a 1974 ceasefire.

The opposition has so far rejected talks with Assad as long as violence continues and has said the only way to restore peace is for the president to step down immediately.

"How can we talk about a dialogue when Syrians cannot meet each other, express an opinion or an ideology without being in danger? These rights have to be guaranteed for participation in public issues," said dissident Aref Dalila, a prominent economist who was jailed for eight years after criticising a mobile phone concession that was awarded to a cousin of Assad.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Nicol claims her record sixth world title in emphatic style

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 06:31 PM PST

ROTTERDAM: Nicol David created history by winning her sixth world title in emphatic fashion at the Luxor Theatre here yesterday with the promise of more to come.

The undisputed queen of world squash was in devastating form as she pulverised long-time rival and world No. 2 Jenny Duncalf of England 11-2, 11-5, 11-0 in just 29 minutes in the final of the World Open.

It was a perfect six for Nicol – six wins from six finals at the world meet, making her the most successful woman player in the history of the game.

She had earlier shared the honour, five titles apiece, with her mentor Sarah FitzGerald of Australia.

The triumph is the latest narrative in the storied life of Malaysia's greatest sports star. The 28-year-old Nicol, who turned pro in 2000, won her other world titles in Hong Kong (2005), Belfast, Northern Ireland (2006), Manchester (2008), Amsterdam (2009) and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, last year.

The world crown yesterday was also Nicol's 56th Wispa title and ninth of the year.

It was her 27th win over Duncalf in 29 meetings. Nicol received US$21,188 while Duncalf pocketed US$13,656.

Nicol, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday for her outstanding accomplishments, got off to a flying start in the first set winning 11-2 in just nine minutes.

Duncalf, featuring in her first final, was out of sorts and completely outplayed in every aspect of the game.

In the second set, Nicol playing in her 10th world meet, took a comfortable 8-3 lead before dropping just two points to seal victory.

A deflated Duncalf just melted under Nicol's relentless attack and meekly surrendered the third 11-0.

An elated Nicol said she didn't quite know how to describe her joy in winning her record sixth world title.

"Winning the crown is a huge thing for Malaysia as we don't have many world champions in sports," said Nicol, whose parents Desmond and Mary Ann were in Rotterdam to watch their daughter make history.

"I'm really happy to repay my fellow Malaysians for all their support by winning the world title for them.

"My only wish now is to play in the Olympics. I would happily trade my six world titles for the sport to be included in the Olympic Games," said Nicol, adding that she wasn't done winning titles yet - not by a long shot.

A disheartened Duncalf said that she had been totally outclassed by Nicol.

"I was hoping to win the final as an early birthday present but it was not to be," said Duncalf, who turns 29 on Thursday.

In the men's competition, world No. 1 Nick Matthew of England retained the world title after coming back from a set down to beat sixth seed Gregory Gaultier of France 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 in the final.

Matthew received US$26,220 for his efforts while Gaultier took home US$16,388.



Semi-finals: Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Karim Darwish (Egy) 11-9,11-9, 11-1; Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt James Willstrop (Eng) 11-6, 11-8, 11-4.

Final: Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 11-9, 11-6, 11-5


Semi-finals: Nicol David (Mas) bt Natalie Grinham (Hol)

11-9, 11-4, 11-6; Jenny Duncalf (Eng) bt Samantha Teran (Mex) 11-9, 11-4, 11-7.

Final: Nicol David (Mas) bt Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 11-2, 11-5,11-0.

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Malaysia let down by poor finishing in draw with New Zealand

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 06:40 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: Malaysia and New Zealand shared points in a scrappy 1-1 draw at the Sultan of Johor Cup junior hockey tournament at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium here yesterday.

Once again, Malaysia had plenty of chances to get the goals but were let down by some poor finishing. They will need to buck up seriously to have a shot at making the final.

They play South Korea next in a match they have to win if they are to avoid the classification playoffs.

The Malaysians started well but it was the Kiwis who took the lead from their second penalty corner attempt in the ninth minute. Russell Kane found the net easily beating goalkeeper Mohamed Hafizuddin Othman.

The Malaysians pushed hard for the equaliser and came close a couple of times. They earned their first penalty corner in the 24th minute but were denied by poor stopping.

The Malaysians had more possession in the second half but made several unforced errors in their eagerness to get the elusive goal.

Passes were sent straight to their opponents and there was too much holding onto the ball. The finishing, when they got the ball into the D was also way off the mark.

Their penalty corner set pieces were also atrocious. They had six attempts which were either saved or thwarted by poor stopping of the ball.

The tide changed in the 63rd minute when senior team player Amir Farid collected the ball in the D and beat goalkeeper George Enersen with a deflection.

That effort was enough to earn a point for the Malaysians.

Earlier, South Korea won their second match when they defeated Pakistan 2-1 to top the table with maximum points.

It was yet another mixed showing from the Koreans who played well in the first half, unlike their match against India on Saturday where they came back from a four-goal deficit to win 6-4 with a strong second half performance.

This time, the Koreans took a two-goal lead at half-time. They then defended like mad in the second half to restrict the Pakistanis to just one goal to clinch the three points.

Korean skipper Yang Ji-hun scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the 20th minute while Lee Jung-jun added the second two minutes later.

Pakistan replied through Mohamed Adnan in the 53rd minute. It was their second defeat having lost to New Zealand on Saturday.

Australia kept up their winning ways with a 3-2 win over India. There was an improvement in the Indian game but they still failed to find the net when it mattered.

The Australians led throughout and came under tremendous pressure in the later stages of the match. But the Indian fightback came too late to save the match.

The Australians scored through Daniel Beal, Josh Walters and Cameron Joyce in the seventh, 29th and 50th minutes respectively.

Ramandeep Singh scored both India's goals.

Indian coach Mukesh Kumar acknowledged that they had allowed the early pressure to get to them.

"We played much better today but lacked the mental strength to overcome the early advantage the Aussies had. This is a good lesson and we have to learn from it," he said.

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Nelson-Teo bury chokers’ tag with perfect show

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 06:43 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: For Nelson Heg Wei Keat-Teo Ee Yi, the thought of being dubbed as chokers was unbearable.

And driven to make a point, the duo gave a spotless performance to upstage top seed and Asian junior champions Huang Po-jui-Lin Chia-yu of Taiwan 21-17, 21-17 in the boys' doubles final of the World Junior Championships in Taiwan yesterday.

Besides the Asian junior meet in India this year, they had also crashed out in the final of last year's world junior meet.

Wei Keat was happy that they were able to bid farewell to their junior careers in style.

"We were determined not to make the mistakes of the past. At the Asian junior meet, we were over-confident and lacked focus. It saw us going down to the Taiwanese. Today, we were ready for them," said an elated Wei Keat in a telephone interview yesterday.

"We proved that we can win in major tournaments and that means a lot to us.

"I missed my mother Yeoh Suh Nei's birthday on Nov 4 and this title is my belated birthday gift for her."

Ee Yi said that he was choked with emotion after breaking the jinx of losing in the finals and hoped that they could continue with their rise in the senior rank.

The duo will be under the charge of South Korean coach Yoo Yong-sung now that their junior days are over.

"This is really satisfying. We can now leave the junior ranks with a lot of confidence," said Ee Yi.

"We will be promoted to the back-up squad now.

"It will not be easy in the senior ranks but we aim to become the country's top pair like Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong in two years," he added.

Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) doubles chief coach Yap Kim Hock was a proud man yesterday. It was his third world junior title with winning pairs after Ow Yao Han-Chooi Kah Ming (2009) and Yao Han-Yew Hong Kheng (2010).

"Our boys deserve a big pat on their backs. They worked hard and now, they reap their reward," said Kim Hock.

"I just hope that this pair will be given time to prove their worth in the senior team. Hopefully, no swapping of partners will take place.

"They have proved themselves in the junior ranks. It is only fair to give them a chance to come good in the senior ranks."

In the past, many of Malaysia's world junior champion pairs sank into oblivion because of the heavy mix and match exercises.

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The Star Online: Business

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Furniture exports improve in H2

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 06:28 PM PST

GEORGE TOWN: Export sales of Malaysia-made furniture products are likely to be RM7bil to RM7.5bil this year compared with RM7.95bil last year.

Earlier in June, the Malaysian Furniture Entrepreneurs Association (MFEA) had projected a 15% drop to RM6.8bil.

From January to August, the value of furniture exported by Malaysia was RM4.9bil, down about 7.9% compared with RM5.3bil in the corresponding period last year.

MFEA president Lor Lean Sen told StarBiz that orders for Malaysia-made furniture had improved in the second half, driven by demand from Japan, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

"Exports to Japan, due to its reconstruction activities, increased to RM554mil during the January-August period compared with RM433mil achieved in the same period a year ago," he said.

Lor said Japan was the second largest market for MFEA members, contributing about 8.9% or RM709mil to their RM7.95bil export revenue in 2010.

He said exports to India improved to RM171mil during the eight months compared with RM137mil previously.

"Sales to the United States have also improved in the second half over the first half of 2011," he said.

Shipments to Saudi Arabia increased to RM101mil in the eight months compared with RM88mil a year earlier, while exports to Russia improved to RM51mil against RM43mil previously.

"The fact that ringgit has weakened by 3% to 5% in the third quarter also helped to improve the export sales," Lor said.

The association has about 3,000 members, of which about 30% are involved in export business.

On raw materials, Lor said local rubberwood prices had increased by 10%15% to RM1,500 to RM1,800 per tonne, depending on the grade, compared with the last quarter.

"This has increased the cost of production, which erodes our competitive edge. Rubberwood pricing has gone up because of the rainy season, which stalls the replanting of rubber trees, and due to the higher offer price from overseas customers.

"Raw material prices are likely to go up further in the future," he said.

Lor said the markets in the United States and Japan were likely to improve next year but it would decline in Europe.

"We are also getting orders from the customers of our competitors in Thailand which have been unable to produce due to the floods in that country," he said.

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Coping with Europe's chaos

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 04:57 PM PST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street may find it hard to rally this week as Greece's new and untested coalition begins the process of ratifying a 130 billion-euro lifeline and the fate of Italy's government hangs by a thread.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras agreed on Sunday to form a new coalition government to approve the euro zone bailout deal. On Wall Street, the welcome was cautious.

"We come back to whether this deal is sufficient to solve the problem," said Jerry Webman, chief economist and senior investment officer with Oppenheimer Funds in New York. "I think it is a reasonable step in the right direction, but in my opinion the answer is no."

With the immediate crisis in Greece seemingly under control for now the next flash point for markets could be Italy, where premier Silvio Berlusconi's fate rested on a group of party rebels threatening to pull the rug from under his government this week.

The renewed flare up in Europe's debt crisis, which started just days after investors thought a deal had been reached at an EU summit in Brussels, has again stressed Europe's credit markets and drove the first weekly fall in U.S. equities in a month.

Investors fear that a disorderly default of an EU sovereign would trigger losses in creditor banks that could ricochet around the global financial system much in the same way the bankruptcy of Lehman brothers hit markets in 2008.

Italian bonds sold off again on Friday to push their yield to a record euro-era high above 6.4 percent. The spread over German bunds, reflecting the higher risk premium investors place on Italy, also hit a record above 4.6 percentage points.

But although stocks fell last week, the S&P 500 held the top end of its recent trading range at around 1,250. That has been seen as a sign of resilience by investors who have become emboldened by better-than-expected U.S. data and corporate earnings.

The formation of a new government in Greece will be another support under the market and may even spur some risk-taking when markets open -- but it is not expected to last.

"It's the best-case scenario and may spark a brief relief rally," said Alan Ruskin, head of G10 currency strategy at Deutsche bank in New York. "But it won't last and we will soon go back to focusing on Italy."

Friday's U.S. monthly jobs report suggested some improvement in October, even though the headline payroll numbers appeared weaker than expected.

Nonfarm payrolls rose a tepid 80,000 in October, below economists' expectations. But employers added 102,000 more jobs than previously estimated in August and September.

And the U.S. unemployment rate slipped to 9 percent. It had been stuck at 9.1 percent for three straight months.

"What I'm seeing at the moment is that investors are getting more reassured with the picture that the U.S. may actually do OK despite the troubles in Europe," said Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer of equities at Calvert Investment Management in Bethesda, Maryland, which manages about $13 billion.

"The more recent data points on the U.S. economy and earnings profiles are supporting that assertion," she said.

The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index <.spx> posted an 11 percent gain for October -- its best monthly percentage rise since December 1991.

With results in from some 433 of the S&P 500 companies, 70 percent have beaten forecasts on third-quarter earnings, defying views that growth would be hit by the problems in Europe and a slower economy in China.

Analysts have said earnings growth has helped to support the market and has taken some of the focus away from Europe, even if just momentarily.

More reports are expected this week, including several retailers like Macy's , whose results could shed some light on how the holiday shopping season may go.


Still, strategists see plenty of volatility ahead, making any big moves hard for short-term investors.

The CBOE Volatility Index <.vix> fell 1.1 percent to close at 30.16 on Friday, but is well above levels from just last summer. It was trading near 20 in early August.

For the week, the VIX rose 22.9 percent following wide market swings in four of five trading sessions.

By taking a longer-term approach, though, some investors have been able to see the current situation as a buying opportunity, analysts said.

Stock valuations are cheap, so if earnings hold up, investors are likely to be better positioned in stocks than in bonds or cash, they said.

The S&P 500 forward price-to-earnings ratio is now at 12, its lowest in years.

"Savvy investors are using the dips to put some money to work, but this is a very difficult market if you're a short-term trader," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at The Davidson Cos. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Among this week's key economic indicators are the U.S. international trade deficit for September, due on Thursday, and on Friday, the preliminary November reading on consumer sentiment from the Reuters/University of Michigan surveys.

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Tokyo, Osaka exchanges eye merger in autumn 2012: report

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 04:55 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Stock Exchange and Osaka Securities Exchange are in the final stages of talks to merge with the aim of combining forces in the autumn of 2012, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Monday.

Under one likely scenario being discussed, the unlisted Tokyo bourse (TSE) would first take a majority stake in the smaller but listed Osaka exchange (OSE) as early as next spring through a public tender offer, the Nikkei said.

The two would then merge operations and the Osaka exchange would remain listed as the surviving entity, the newspaper said.

Merger talks between the exchanges began in March with the aim of better competing amid weak stock market conditions in Japan and a wave of mergers and alliances among global exchanges.

The two have complementary strengths, with the Tokyo bourse controlling more than 90 percent of cash-equity trading volume in Japan and the Osaka exchange the top player in Nikkei index futures and other derivatives.

The head of the Tokyo exchange, Atsushi Saito, who originally said he wanted to list it before a merger, told Reuters last month that avoiding an initial public offering might speed up the process.

"From the viewpoint of TSE shareholders, they will be listed, whether that is a direct listing or a consolidated, indirect listing," Saito said in the interview.

Two proposals being discussed would set the maximum stake to be purchased in the tender offer at either 50.01 percent or 66.6 percent, the Nikkei said.

The two firms would create a holding company and four units specializing in cash products, futures trading, settlement and self-regulation, the newspaper said.

Saito is expected to become CEO of the new company while OSE head Michio Yoneda will become chief operating officer, the Nikkei said.

The TSE and OSE both issued statements saying nothing had been decided.

Saito and Yoneda are due to meet soon with discussion likely to focus on the merger ratio.

The two sides had been unable to reach a consensus on the value of the TSE but appear to have made progress on this point, the paper said.

The TSE's market value is expected to be set at 1.5 to 2 times that of the Osaka bourse, which was 98.5 billion yen ($1.3 billion) as of Friday's close, the Nikkei said.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf


Posted: 05 Nov 2011 05:12 PM PDT

FOR the week ending Oct 30, 2011:


1.        Steve Jobs: A Biography by Walter Isaacson

2.        A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs Of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

3.        Wonders Of The World: 100 Incredible And Inspiring Places On Earth by Igloo Books Ltd

4.        The Grand Design: New Answers To The Ultimate Questions Of Life by Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow

5.        The Night The Angels Came by Cathy Glass

6.        Every Day A Friday: How To Be Happier 7 Days A Week by Joel Osteen

7.        Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

8.        The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life's Most Difficult Problems by Stephen R. Covey

9.        Redirect: The Surprising New Science Of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson

10.       Stop The Bullying by Andrew        Matthews


1.        Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

2.        The Time Of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

3.        Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

4.        1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

5.        A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

6.        The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

7.        What's Your Number? by Karyn Bosnak

8.        The Very Picture Of You by Isabel Wolff

9.        Aleph by Paulo Coelho

10.       Sexiest Vampire Alive by Kerrelyn        Sparks

Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; www.mphonline.com.

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Writing workshop that’s all about the drama

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 05:08 PM PDT

UNIVERSITI Tunku Abdul Rahman, through its Centre for Extension for Education (CEE) in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, will be conducting a two-day workshop called "Writing Creatively" on Nov 23 and 24.

The workshop is open to those who want to learn how to write a play and also how dramatic writing can be applied to other uses, eg, advertising, event launches, etc.

This highly interactive workshop will be conducted by Kee Thuan Chye, a playwright who has had his plays staged and read in Malaysia, Singapore and Britain. Some of them have also been published.

Among his better-known plays are 1984 Here And Now, We Could **** You, Mr Birch, and The Swordfish, Then The Concubine.

For costs and more details, call Ms Jennifer/Mr Sia at 03-7957 2818 / 016-223 3563 or e-mail cee@utar.edu.my. More information is also available at facebook.com/UTARCEE.

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The book of Jobs

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 05:08 PM PDT

If you're a fan of the man, you'll probably get this book. But even if you're not, consider getting it because it's simply a good read.

Steve Jobs

Author: Walter Isaacson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 656 pages

STEVE Jobs invented the Mac, iPad and iPhone. And then he died. Everyone is sad now. The end." That's what my 12-year-old told me I should write when he found out I was reviewing Walter Isaacson's book about the Apple front man.

From his point of view, that about sums up everything everyone really needs to know about the man. And that's my son, from whom we have to pry the iPad away if we want him to eat, bathe or sleep. For him, it's the gadgets and not so much the man behind them.

There are a kazillion Jobs fans who wouldn't agree with him, I am sure. But it's interesting to note that while we have the TV, radio, light bulb, microwave, and portable game consoles, there isn't the same hullabaloo about the people who helped bring all these marvels to us. So what makes Jobs different? With this question in mind, I opened the cover to the Book of Jobs. By the end of it, I hadn't learnt the secret to his success but I understood what makes him the enigma that he is to so many.

The book is chockful of details about the man, and it is an enjoyable read. It's a bit slow going because there's so much information to digest, but it's not overwhelming. I've been an IT journalist for almost two decades, and I now know more about Jobs thanks to Isaacson than I learned in the course of my job.

My closest personal experience with Jobs was when I was standing about five metres from him at a press conference during one of the Macworld shows a decade or so ago. A foreign journalist asked a question but his accent was so thick that Jobs had a hard time figuring out what he wanted. He became so impatient and irritated that he ended the conference although it had only just begun. So its no surprise to me to read in the biography that Jobs could sometimes be arrogant and wasn't afraid to tell people to their faces exactly what he thought of them.

The book also talks about Jobs' showmanship and his skills as a salesman, which I can also vouch for from personal experience. When I watched Jobs onstage during that particular MacWorld, I wasn't an Apple fan. But even I got caught up as he worked his magic; and I wasn't alone, the other journalists were whooping and clapping along with the fans. Wow.

That's just two instances that help describe the kind of person that Jobs was. Isaacson's book has so many, and much of these run quite deep. The man certainly is complex, judging from the stories of his childhood, college years, and working life.

In the early chapters, I'm appalled that Jobs could think of his biological parents as mere "sperm and egg banks". He must have really hated them for abandoning him. Then I read about how much he loved his adoptive patents, and looked up to them, especially his dad for teaching him to love tinkering with stuff.

A couple of chapters later, I'm cackling out loud as the book deals with the things Jobs got up to as an adolescent, especially the pranks he and his friends would pull. The one that sticks with me is when they set off an explosion under a teacher that left her with a nervous tic.

One other memorable nugget of information that I found out about Jobs through the book is that he was a strict vegetarian from early in his life. But the problem was that he believed that eating only fruits and vegetables meant he didn't need to bathe. He told people that his diet kept his body free from mucus and odour. He was wrong, of course. And there are instances where his friends and workmates had to show him the door when they couldn't stand the stink.

His other quirk was his penchant for walking about in his bare feet. Thankfully, all this had changed by the time he became the famous person that everyone knows. He stayed a vegetarian, but started bathing and wearing shoes.

Isaacson's book does a good job of charting Jobs' life. There are 42 chapters in total and all the milestones are covered; everything from The Blue Box to the Apple I to Macintosh to NeXT computer to iCEO to the App Store to iPhone and the iPad.

Then there are the bits about his interactions with the people in his life, including Steve Wozniak, his close friend and one of the two Steves who founded Apple; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; and John Sculley, a former CEO of Apple; to name a few. There are just too many to name them all here.

If you want to know a whole lot about the man behind Apple and its cool products, this is the book to get. No Apple fan would be without the Book of Jobs. But even those who aren't fans should pick it up because it is a good read.

We should all be so lucky that the tale of our lives could each fill 600 pages in a book and be as interesting. Or that the things we do in life could touch so many people in the world.

> Ronald Byrne is the editor of Bytz, the information technology pullout of The Star.

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The Star Online: Nation

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Officers to face disciplinary action, says Health sec-gen

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 03:29 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry may take disciplinary action against its officers who approved an early payment of RM708,220 for unreceived medical equipment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.

"The investigation committee, set up on May 19 2011, has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against the officers," secretary-general Datuk Kamarul Zaman Md Isa said in a statement.

He said the officers had confirmed that the equipment was received in order and approved the payment when in effect there was no such delivery.

He said the Ministry has imposed a late delivery fine of RM2.196mil on the supplier of the Next Generation Communication System (NGCS) meant for a communication system upgrade in all hospitals and institutions under the ministry.

The recent Auditor-General's Report revealed the discrepancy in the acquisition of rehabilitation equipment for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, stating the RM708,220 payment for the order dated 2007 was made before the equipment was received.

The Report said that acquiring the NGCS was not beneficial to the Ministry as the system was delivered late and could not be fully utilised in 13 hospitals and institutes.

It said the Ministry ended up paying RM3.22mil for a communication licence related to the NGCS which it could not use. BERNAMA

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Lee Kuan Yew has rare nerve disease, says daughter

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 03:20 AM PST

SINGAPORE: Former Singapore premier Lee Kuan Yew has a rare nerve disease that makes walking difficult, his daughter Wei Ling wrote in her column in the Straits Times.

He has been diagnosed with sensory peripheral neuropathy, a disease that affects nerves outside the central nervous system and undermines balance, said Wei Ling.

"On some days he is fairly steady and on other days his balance is poor," said Wei Ling, a medical doctor and director of Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute.

"Being deprived of sensation from his legs means he finds it a challenge to balance," she said

He is walking on a treadmill three times a day to improve his balance, Wei Ling added.

Sensory peripheral neuropathy has a range of causes. Wei Ling did not specify what may have caused her father condition. She said she also suffers from the disease.

Lee was premier from 1959 to 1990.

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PM completes haj pilgrimage

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 03:20 AM PST

Published: Sunday November 6, 2011 MYT 7:20:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor have completed their haj pilgrimage in Mecca along with millions of other Muslims.

"Alhamdullilah, our haj pilgrimage is complete," Najib said in his Twitter page.

He also wished all Muslims in Malaysia a Happy Aidiladha. They are among 28,000 Malaysians who performed the haj this year.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts &amp; Fashion

Daring to be different

Posted: 06 Nov 2011 02:45 AM PST

While some people may find comfort in familiar beauty, others want to be challenged by the bold and the bizarre. Art Expo Malaysia catered to both tastes.

WHAT makes an art expo a success? From the organiser's point of view, it might be how many visitors it draws or how many artworks it sells, and for how much.

A collector might be focused on getting his hands on a specific artwork by an artist he adores. It would probably make his day if he manages to unexpectedly snag a good deal from the art fair.

But to the casual visitor, it is perhaps more about how much he enjoys wandering around the different booths and looking at the art showcase. Are there works that he has never seen before, are they aesthetically pleasing, are there any that he would – even if only theoretically speaking – like to hang on his wall?

In the eyes of art collectors, I am no art collector. The last drawing I received from a friend shows a white lamb frolicking in a bright green meadow. He drew it on a graphics tablet. And I have it on my desktop, not on my wall.

If space were no object, and money were to fall from the sky, the fifth annual Art Expo Malaysia – held at the Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur until last Tuesday – would surely be a good place to start searching for that perfect piece to grace my wall.

With over 400 artists from over 20 countries and more than 2,000 artworks on display, visitors were spoiled for choice.

The range of works was diverse: there was a depiction of China's Cultural Revolution set against a Pepsi backdrop; boys stripped to the waist with eyes covered, standing atop a roof overlooking the city; a man with a fiddle and a dancing dog; musicians playing on long slender horns; galloping horses drawn in ink; elaborate architecture reflected in a water ripple; bobble-head figurines; fabricated metal and wooden sculptures. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, so it's hard to settle for a favourite piece.

I started my walkabout at the art expo with the Malaysian galleries (they made up around 25% of the expo this year), weaved my way through the crowds at galleries from Indonesia, Germany, Myanmar, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam galleries, to name just a few, before ending at the Embassies Row, which comprised booths from the embassies or high commissions of Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Switzerland.

You know how people say art is subjective?

At the art expo, I had a few reminders of exactly how true this is.

Rather taken with a series of three works by Chinese artist Luo Jie (from 88.6 Szechuan New Wave Six) depicting three figures in various poses – frozen in a soundless scream or puffing on a cigarette – on a wall by themselves, I said to the woman standing beside me that I found them fascinating. I liked that these works of acrylic on canvas looked almost like photographs of a sculpture or someone in costume. The lines were fluid, graceful, the overall look was clean, strong and bold.

But the woman looked at them quizzically and said that she wasn't sure that she would like them up on her wall. "I'm worried that they would startle me when I get out of bed in the middle of the night and stumble past them on my way to the toilet," she said.

I guess the resemblance to a writhing mass of worms on a man's face and neck while he pauses to pose for the camera between cigarette puffs isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea.

This year's art expo had works from China showcased for the first time here, and the selection of works showed that, contrary to popular belief, Chinese art is so much more than just traditional ink and brush mountains and waterfalls. Many works were contemporary, quirky and they would be able to stand as an exhibition on their own.

These aside, a fair number of other works at the expo were refreshing to me – whether it was because the artist depicted a common subject in an unusual way or took a chance in exploring a new concept.

And probably for that reason, I felt indifferent towards most of the works displayed at the Malaysian art galleries. Granted, some were well-suited for display in a large space: Hoe Say Yong's brilliant pools of blue and vermilion contrasted nicely with Bayu Utomo Radjikin's larger-than-life brooding charcoal male figures. There were also some interesting sculptures on display – from Raja Shahriman's fabricated metal pieces to Vong Nyam Chee's sculptures put together from discarded wooden strips and given form and structure with some fancy blade work.

But as much as I liked their works, I couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed that there wasn't more of something new to see in the local section. Overall, barring a few exceptions, I felt like I'd seen similar kinds of works before. However, what I personally perceived as a setback was the same reason others liked the works. A friend told me that she liked the art displayed at the Malaysian galleries the best – over all the other countries represented at the expo – because they were familiar.

"It's something I've seen before so I feel that I can relate to them better," she said.

But an art expo is so much more than admiring individual artworks. The experience of this expo would not be complete without a visit to the Embassies Row.

Some booths stood out because they were done up like a mini exhibition hall with a theme in mind. For example, the entire booth occupied by Switzerland was filled with pictures of golden-brown foliage in autumn. Warm sun rays trickled through the leaves on tree branches. Collectively, the ink on raw cotton artworks were quite delightful.

But it was the artworks at the Ecuador booth that blew me away. Contemporary artist Jorge Perugachy's deep warm browns and golds with red, blue and green accents came together nicely on canvas, adding heft to what looked at first glance like heavy armour (but were really soft folds of cloth if you looked closely) and charm to the youthful faces gazing out of the paintings.

I sought to be amazed, so it was quite a challenge to get me excited over the familiar kampung house or padi field scene. If people with blue, green and pink skin do not do it, then a man with a thorny durian head, a woman with a black and white plastic bag over her head or a nude curled up in a foetal position on a splash of bright blue paint might do the trick.

Such were among my favourite works at the art expo – unabashedly bold, confident and daring to be different.

The Star was Art Expo Malaysia's official media.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The gift of nutrition

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 08:04 PM PDT

Good nutrition takes on a different meaning as we progress through different stages of life, including the time when life nears the end.

WE can literally track the stages of our lives by noting the kinds of food we eat. At first, we don't really have a choice. From milk to oatmeal to solid food, we take what is given to us.

Then we graduated to different kinds of foods of our choice – some of which our parents wouldn't even put in their mouths.

After that, our choices may change, or be limited, due to our beliefs and health conditions.

And when our lives near the end, due to old age or illness, we are back to eating what we are given, again.

While parents and caregivers have a lot of guidance on the food that will help their children grow, relatively little is known about the kinds of food or the ways to feed one's ailing or ageing loved one.

To make things more complicated, it is difficult to come up with a rule of thumb that accommodates all individuals with different health conditions and food preferences.

As Dr Harold H. Sandstead, a now retired professor of preventive medicine and community health at the US University of Texas Medical Branch, wrote in his 1990 article, A point of view: nutrition and care of terminally ill patients, "It seems to me that there are no simple formulas for decisions, but there are useful guidelines: comfort the sick, cure if possible, do no harm, and above all, respect the person of the patient."

"Respect for the person of the patient," Sandstead continues, means placing the wishes of the patient first while at the same time meeting the patient's needs, which include preventing pain and suffering, comforting, maintaining a wholesome environment in the sick room, assisting with bodily functions in an unobtrusive way, providing spiritual support, and assisting with food and drink.

"It also includes truthfulness with regards to prognosis for those patients who wish and need to know, as well as clearly describing the benefits and risks of potential technical approaches for treatment of the patient's illness," he wrote.

"Finally, it involves discontinuing invasive or discomforting treatments when it becomes clear that recovery is highly unlikely and that life for practical purposes is at an end."

Food for the body and mind

To achieve all that Dr Sanstead proposes is a tall order, but they are what doctors and hospice volunteers like Yeo Puay Huei and Dr Siow Chih Peng from Kasih Hospice Care Society (KHCS) tries to do for those who are terminally ill. These are people who have conditions that limit life, is progressive, and no longer treatable, controllable or curable, by conventional medical treatment.

The goal, in the care of these patients, is to make the process of nearing death as comfortable as possible. In this regard, good nutrition plays a big role.

Besides providing the body with the nutrients and energy it needs to survive, good nutrition also allows a person's mind to function well. With a well-functioning mind, those nearing the end of their lives can, in turn, have the opportunity to sort out unfinished business and find peace within themselves with the support of their friends, family members or hospice organisations.

"(We notice that) when our patient's minds are peaceful, they respond better to medication. Even if they are beyond medication, the whole experience of dying becomes less fearful and less uncomfortable," says Yeo, who is the president of the KHCS.

Using common sense

It is not that difficult to understand why good nutrition is important for those who are terminally ill, but understanding their real nutritional needs might prove initially challenging to some caregivers.

One of the common worries caregivers have is that their loved ones are not eating enough.

"Some of them are already unable to do anything, and yet their families keep telling them that they must eat," says Dr Siow, who is deputy president of medical services at the KHCS.

There are also times when the patient requests for a particular food and is given a huge bowl or pack of it – an amount they cannot finish. This, instead, makes the patients feel guilty simply because they can't finish the food given to them.

"What (families) can do, is to provide food in small amounts, and with increased frequency," says Dr Siow.

The process that often needs a little explaining is that as their bodies gradually slow down, people who are terminally ill may not need as much food as they did before. While they may lose weight, they might not feel hungry, or have the appetite to eat.

This is shown in studies like the one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994, where US doctors Robert M. McCann, William J. Hall, and Annmarie Groth-Juncker, evaluated 32 mentally aware, competent patients with terminal illness in a comfort care unit.

They found that of the 32 patients monitored during the 12 months of study, 20 of them (63%) never experienced hunger, while the remaining ones had symptoms only initially. Similarly, 20 patients experienced either no thirst or thirst only initially during their terminal illness.

"In all patients, symptoms of hunger, thirst, and dry mouth could be alleviated, usually with small amounts of food, fluids, and/or by the application of ice chips and lubrication to the lips," read the results that are available on the journal's website.

While patients who are still on palliative therapy for cancer may be encouraged to eat and build their strength in between treatments when their appetite recovers so that they can withstand the next treatment, those who have only months to live may not require more than they can stomach. The same goes with oral medications as well.

"Sometimes we have to review the patients' medications and stop them one by one because they no longer serve their purpose," says Dr Siow.

Respecting wishes

"It is always advisable to get a professional opinion before deciding on any sort of management for a terminally ill patient," says Dr Jeyashree Jacob, the medical affairs manager of Wyeth Nutrition.

For patients who cannot swallow, tube feeding can help them get the nutrition they need. However, when they are in the terminal or palliative stage, any complications and discomfort resulting from this form of feeding should be taken into account.

In the end, the most important individuals are the patients themselves, says Dr Jeyashree. Even when the decisions on their care have to be discussed with their doctors, their wishes should be respected.

"It is not uncommon to hear an elderly lady who is dying saying all she wants is some ice cream. This is because it gives her comfort," says Dr Siow. Sometimes, cancer patients may feel very warm as a result of the disease and ask for cold drinks or ice cream just to cool their body down or quench their thirst.

"The body, in a way, knows what to ask for," Dr Siow adds.

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Enabling policies

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 08:03 PM PDT

New approaches and innovations in drug policies in Portugal, Switzerland, and Germany.

IN our first article, we wrote about punitive enforcement activities as being expensive ways of making a bad problem worse. Sixty years of punitive drug policy has not reduced drug demand or supply, and has had little or no impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS, increased comorbid psychiatric disorders in prisons, and increased acquisitive crimes, ie crimes committed to obtain drugs.

Across the globe, academics and policymakers alike have understood that medical treatment and reintegration techniques are the way to go to help persons who are chemically dependent on drugs.

In the following paragraphs, we will detail positive and negative aspects of innovations to drug policy in Portugal, Switzerland, and Germany.


Portugal has had overwhelming success in reducing recidivism, addiction, HIV infection, and drug-related crime. Their approach is a holistic one, in that it involves assessment by qualified psychologists and social workers, cooperation with law enforcement entities, methadone maintenance therapy, needle-and-syringe exchange programmes, and socio-behavioural modalities to increase self-worth and motivation of the drug offender.

Portugal has enacted threshold quantities to determine which pathway the detained person will undergo. For example, the statutory amount is one gram for heroin and 25 grams for cannabis. If the person is caught with an amount of drugs below a statutory threshold quantity for consumption in 10 days, he will be diverted to a body called the Dissuasion Commission.

If the person is caught with an amount of drugs above the statutory threshold quantity for 10 days consumption, he will be sent to court for judicial deliberation on whether the person possessed that amount of drugs for consumption, or for trafficking.

If deemed to be trafficking, he or she faces the full application of the criminal law.

The Dissuasion Commission, consisting of lawyers, social workers, and psychologists, assesses the person and then directs him to treatment. Hence, although Portugal decriminalises consumption, it does not legalise it.

Drug use is still prohibited, but consumption is no longer labelled as a crime, but instead as a reason to direct the person to treatment.


Swiss drug policy applies the harm reduction approach in four pillars: Prevention, Treatment, Harm Reduction, and Enforcement.

The Prevention strategy encompasses, et al, to enhance early intervention, to make prevention part of everyday life, and to strengthen the individual's social network.

The Treatment strategy involves medically-prescribed methadone and other medicines, and psychiatric treatment for those with comorbidities.

The Harm Reduction strategy includes needle-and-syringe exchange programmes, consultation services for children of persons who consume drugs, and offers of employment so that persons who use drugs have no need to commit crime to finance their drug habits.

The Enforcement pillar has the primary goal of reducing supply, and hence concentrates on the trafficking of narcotics, illegal financial transactions related to such trafficking, and organised crime.

Hence, police do not waste valuable financial and human resources on drug users.


In Berlin, Germany, drug policy is intended to "balance" law enforcement and treatment options, and consists of outpatient counselling units, methadone maintenance, needle-and-syringe exchange programmes, and low threshold drop-in centres where drug users can have a meal, use a washing machine, shower, and have increased contact with health professionals, psychologists, and social workers.

However, newer approaches in Germany are less institutionalised, and have to compete with a predominant repression and abstinence model.

This is somewhat the situation in Malaysia, with NGOs, the National Anti-Drug Agency and the Health Ministry increasingly supporting harm reduction and treatment initiatives, whilst law enforcement agencies continue to arrest drug dependent persons, leading to them being caned and imprisoned.

So, while some parties are carrying out actions to reduce HIV spread, destigmatise and provide a stable enabling environment for drug users to return as productive members of society, there are several obstacles that prevent this, the most important being incarceration and caning of persons dependent on drugs.

It is worth looking at innovative drug policies overseas, and take from them modalities that Malaysia as a nation can benefit from.

> Fifa Rahman and Tan Sri Zaman Khan are from the Malaysian AIDS Council. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Vaccine boon

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 08:01 PM PDT

Protect your child against the dangers of pneumococcal disease.

THE body has a natural defence system against harmful organisms such as bacteria and viruses. When these germs invade the body, your immune system makes antibodies that help destroy them. The next time you are exposed to the same infection, your body automatically recognises it and produces the same antibodies to destroy it.

Vaccinations work in pretty much the same way. A vaccination shot contains a very small and safe amount of the virus or bacteria, which has been either killed or weakened. This helps your body learn to recognise and attack the infection, if you contract it later on in life.

Thanks to vaccinations, diseases such as smallpox, which killed around one-third of all victims and scarred or blinded survivors, have been eradicated. Polio, caused by a virus that destroys nerve cells, once used to paralyse more than 1,000 children daily all over the world. It has now been virtually eliminated and Malaysia has been polio-free since 1985.

Pneumococcal disease

All children are given mandatory vaccinations that help protect against diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, haemophilus influenza B, measles, mumps, as well as rubella.

On top of these, there are also recommended vaccinations, which are important to further help protect your child against other dangerous diseases, including pneumococcal disease.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, commonly known as pneumococcus. It attacks various parts of the body, causing serious illnesses in both children and adults. There are generally two types of pneumococcal diseases: invasive diseases and non-invasive diseases.

Invasive diseases are more serious and occur within a major organ, or the blood, and include:

Pneumococcal pneumonia

·Most common disease caused by pneumococcus.

·May start off with high fever, cough, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pains, nausea, vomiting, headache, tiredness and muscle aches.

·If not treated, pneumococcus can spread to other parts of the body, including the middle ear, nervous system, and even the blood. Blood infections can lead to serious complications.

Bacteraemia (blood infection)

·A serious complication that occurs when the bacteria spreads and infects the blood.

·Symptoms include fever, headache, as well as muscle aches and pains.

·If not treated, can lead to sepsis, which may affect the functions of major organs and eventually lead to septic shock.

·Septic shock is a sudden dysfunction in various vital organs and can be life-threatening.

Meningitis (inflammation of the brain covering and spinal cord)

·An extremely serious condition whereby the brain covering and spinal cord is inflamed.

·Persons affected often show symptoms such as severe headache, vomiting, high fever, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, confusion, and sleepiness.

·If untreated, more complications arise, such as seizures and permanent neurological damage, eg hearing/speech loss, learning disabilities, blindness, brain damage, and even paralysis.

Both bacteraemia and meningitis are complications that can kill within hours, and babies and toddlers fall into the high-risk groups of contracting these diseases. In fact, meningitis has one of the highest fatality rates, with most cases affecting children under the age of one year.

On the other hand, non-invasive diseases, occur outside major organs and the blood. These include:

Otitis media (infection of the middle ear)

·Symptoms include ear pain (especially when lying down), difficulty sleeping, difficulty hearing or responding to sounds, loss of balance, headache, fever, leaking of fluid from the ear, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, or sore throat.

·Frequent or persistent infections or fluid build-up in the ears may result in serious complications such as permanent impaired hearing, speech or development delays in infants/toddlers, or even spread of the infection to nearby tissues such as the brain.

Sinusitis (sinus inflammation)

·A person may experience headache, facial tenderness, pain, fever, cloudy and discoloured nasal drainage, a feeling of nasal stuffiness, sore throat, or cough.

·Undiagnosed or untreated sinusitis may lead to eye socket infection – which may cause a person to lose the ability to move the eye, or permanent blindness, or infection of the frontal bone (usually occurs in children).

These diseases are less severe compared to bacteraemia and meningitis; however, they can still cause serious complications if not detected and treated early.

Prevent with vaccination

All cases of pneumococcus infection could once be treated effectively with antibiotics such as penicillin. In recent years however, some bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, making it very difficult to treat such diseases.

There are more than 90 known pneumococcal serotypes, with 13 common ones that cause 80-92% of invasive diseases in young children all over the world. Pneumococcal vaccination is one of the best and most effective way of preventing invasive pneumococcal diseases in the first place.

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) protect infants and young children against pneumococcal disease.

Young children below two years old are at highest risk of being infected with the pneumococcus. The risk is higher if the child is in daycare or a nursery where the infection can pass easily from one child to another via air droplets from sneezing or coughing.

Immunisation can begin as early as six weeks of life. The added benefit of the vaccine is that it eradicates the bacteria from the nasopahrynx (back of the throat and nose), thus preventing its spread to other children and adults. This is acknowledged as an indirect benefit of the vaccine, also called herd immunity.

Other groups of individuals that should get vaccinated include:

·Adults aged 65 years and above.

·Children aged two months and above, especially those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, lung (except asthma), heart, kidney, or liver disease.

·Those with immune systems weakened by conditions such as cancer or HIV infection.

·Those without a spleen or who suffer from splenic dysfunction due to thalassaemia or sickle cell disease.

Weighing the risks

Some parents have been alarmed by reports of possible side effects associated with certain vaccines, which have been blown out of proportion by anti-vaccine groups. Notably, the alleged association of autism with the MMR vaccine, which has been proven to be false. The WHO has reaffirmed that none of the available vaccines is associated with autism.

The pneumococcal vaccine, like all other vaccines has been demonstrated to be safe, and causes only mild side effects such as redness or swelling at the injection site. Severe adverse reactions are extremely rare.

Pneumonia is the number one killer infection in children. Most of these are due to the pneumococcus, which kills about 750,000 children each year. Many countries have included the pneumococcal vaccine in their National Immunisation Program (NIP) to prevent these deaths and to reduce the disabilities associated with invasive pneumococcal disease.

The pneumococcal vaccine is currently not included in the Malaysian NIP. It is, however, readily available in private hospitals and from paediatricians and some general practitioners in private practice. You should consult your family doctor to obtain more information about this highly recommended vaccine.

> Datuk Dr Musa Mohd Nordin is a consultant paediatrician and neonatologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association's Positive Parenting programme that is supported by an educational grant from Pfizer. The opinions expressed in the article are the view of the author. For further information, please visit www.mypositiveparenting.org.

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