Khamis, 17 November 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: World Updates

Analysis - Haitian army: ghost of bloody past set for revival

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 09:05 PM PST

PORT-AU-PRINCE/MIAMI (Reuters) - No one disputes that Haiti needs battalions of builders, developers and investors to help it rise from the ruins of last year's earthquake.

But does it need a gun-toting Haitian army?

With debris from the catastrophe still clogging Haiti's capital and nearby towns, a plan by President Michel Martelly to bring back to life an armed forces disbanded 16 years ago is triggering potentially divisive political and social tremors.

Critics at home and abroad question the need to revive an entity associated with corruption, coups, abuse and killings in the Western Hemisphere's poorest and most volatile state.

Major western donors, which fund a U.N. peacekeeping force of more than 12,000 in Haiti and are also shouldering the Caribbean nation's reconstruction burden after the 2010 earthquake, are balking at the idea of having to finance and train a reconstituted army.

"Given the history of Haiti's military, their existence alone could be considered a threat to security," Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research think tank, told Reuters.

"A brigade of construction workers would do far more good," the Miami Herald said in an editorial this week, reflecting a chorus of foreign opposition to Martelly's army plan.

Major donors like the United States, Canada and the United Nations acknowledge that Haiti has the sovereign right to have its own army, but have strongly signalled they feel there are more important reconstruction priorities to attend to.

This includes the urgent task of rehousing around half a million homeless quake victims still living in precarious tent camps in the wrecked capital Port-au-Prince, and an ongoing cholera epidemic that has killed more than 6,700 Haitians.

Despite the negative reaction, Martelly, a shaven-headed former pop star and charismatic nationalist elected in March, is pushing ahead with fulfilling a campaign promise to restore the Haitian army as part of an ambitious program to rebrand development basket case Haiti as a Caribbean success story.

He is expected to formally announce the army's restoration Friday, Armed Forces Day, commemorating an 1803 battle in which rebels defeated French colonial forces and opened the way for Haiti to become the first independent black republic.

The Haitian army was abolished in 1995 by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a left-wing populist who was ousted by a military coup in 1991 only months into his first presidency.

Martelly's draft plans to restore the army and build it into a 3,500-strong force at an initial cost of $95 million have circulated in recent weeks, along with a proposal for a national spy service.


"The force will be set up, but it won't be done with any rush," Martelly said in a recent interview with state television.

He said his government would first ensure it created the necessary military infrastructure and obtained equipment and weaponry, blocked at the moment by remaining U.S. restrictions on arms exports to Haiti. "If we have an army and we have no weapons, we don't have an army," Martelly said.

This has not stopped enthusiastic prospective recruits from training in makeshift assault courses run by ex-soldiers.

Martelly argues Haiti needs its own defence force to protect its national borders and eventually take over from the U.N. peacekeeping force (MINUSTAH), whose image has been tarnished by recent scandals. MINUSTAH is already reducing its numbers amid hopes it can be withdrawn in the next few years.

The president has tapped into popular resentment against the presence since 2004 of MINUSTAH, which some Haitians view as foreign occupiers in a land proud to be the world's first black republic born in 1804 out of a bloody slave revolt.

"If they say we don't need an army, I wonder why we have foreign soldiers on our soil," said Maxo Benoit, a 24-year-old medical student in Port-au-Prince.

Anger against the international peacekeepers, already simmering over evidence that Nepalese U.N. troops brought the deadly cholera epidemic to the quake-ravaged nation, increased after some Uruguayan troops were accused in September of raping a Haitian man. The U.N. is investigating the incident.

"It does seem Martelly has sought to channel anti-MINUSTAH sentiment to bolster support for the reactivation of the armed forces," Weisbrot said, but he added that the move could backfire, because of internal divisions over the army plan.

"The risk is that with this move, Haiti's bitter, longstanding divisions, which are never far from the surface, could come back with a vengeance," Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, told Reuters.

Haiti expert Robert Fatton of the University of Virginia said in a recent academic paper shared with Reuters it seemed powerful sectors in the elite and political class supported Martelly's initiative.

Fatton recalled that Haiti's history was still stained with the bloody memories of feared private militias: the dreaded Tonton Macoutes of former father and son dictators Francois 'Papa Doc' and Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, and the "chimeres' gangs that intimidated opponents of Aristide.


"I am afraid a new army and a spy agency are likely to revive the seeds of authoritarianism still germinating in the Haitian political terrain," he wrote in a paper to the Haitian Studies Association of the University of the West Indies.

"The strong likelihood is that (they) would end up devouring scarce resources, stamping out dissent, silencing opponents, and ultimately becoming a tool of internal repression," Fatton added.

Victims of previous abuses by the old military have echoed these fears, as have some Haitian lawmakers.

With donor financing, the United Nations is already training a renovated Haitian National Police, which has expanded to 10,000, although experts believe its number will need to be doubled to be able to effectively keep the peace by itself.

"The way forward is really to focus on the Haitian National Police and their being able to get stronger and larger and more capable at doing their jobs," a senior U.S. official said last month when asked about Martelly's plan to revive the army.

Fatton and other analysts said Haiti's main security threat was not an external aggressor but crime, including transnational drug-trafficking gangs, and that this should be the responsibility of the expanding police force.

Despite its unpopularity, the U.N. peacekeeping mission was important, Fatton said: "It is at the moment the only force that can keep a relative sense of security in the country."

He said Martelly's determined insistence on pursuing the army's restoration could rekindle fears that surfaced during his election campaign about his links with former military figures and about a potential messianic authoritarian streak.

The former entertainer swept to his March election victory with an energetic message of change carried in his campaign slogan "Tet-Kale," a Creole play on words that invokes Martelly's shaven head and also signifies "all the way."

"The danger is Martelly may assume that his electoral triumph and his current popularity, as well as his image as a man of action, will give him carte blanche to do as he pleases ... To that extent (Martelly)'s rise to the presidency raises questions about Haiti's democratic future," Fatton wrote.

But for some jobless young Haitians, a new army offers hope: "Maybe I can be one of the soldiers," said Jonel Metelus, a resident of Port-au-Prince's poor Martissant neighbourhood.

(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Afghan heroin traffic thrives in war - Russia

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 09:05 PM PST

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's opium poppy crops, which cover an area about the size of New York City, have been "unsatisfactory," Russia's anti-drug czar said Thursday.

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in the Grishk district of Helmand province in this April 18, 2009 file photo. Once known as the bread basket of Afghanistan, the lush green irrigated fields of Helmand are the world's single largest source of opium. REUTERS/Abdul Qodus/Files

Russia is the world's largest per capita consumer of heroin and is coping with an epidemic of HIV/AIDS spread by dirty needles.

Afghanistan has long been the world's leading producer of opium, used to make heroin, and one-quarter of its production traverses its porous border with former Soviet states and supplies as many as 3 million Russian addicts.

Viktor Ivanov, director of Russia's Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics, in Chicago for meetings with his American counterparts, said he agreed with the dim assessment of U.S. poppy eradication efforts by some members of the U.S. Congress.

"Their words were that the efforts are unsatisfactory," Ivanov said through an interpreter in an interview with Reuters. He referred to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who co-chair a caucus on international drug trafficking.

Russia has said the United States made a mistake in 2009 by phasing out crop eradication efforts to focus instead on intercepting drugs and hunting production labs and drug lords.

President Barack Obama has committed to turning over security to Afghan control by the end of 2014. The United States launched the war weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks, targeting al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Joint Russian-American anti-drug operations have appeared to tail off since a raid in October 2010 seized a ton of heroin and destroyed four drug-producing laboratories.

There were four more joint raids conducted between December 2010 and February 2011, but Ivanov said it was cumbersome to obtain military approval quickly, given time-sensitive intelligence.


In spite of concerns that the Taliban and other insurgent elements were financed by illegal drug profits, Ivanov said absentee landowners and traffickers who reap the bulk of the $7 billion in illegal drug proceeds did not have an ideological stake in the decade-old war. The Taliban earned $150 million annually from drug trafficking, he said.

But the traffickers have hijacked the military's transportation infrastructure in Afghanistan to help them ship their product, he said.

The rising number of violent clashes in Afghanistan worked against any effort to persuade farmers to grow legal crops instead of opium poppies, Ivanov said.

"Ask any farmer if he's growing wheat and at the same time his country is torn by all sorts of military clashes. How safe will he feel about the future of his crops and the eventual sale of his crops?" Ivanov said.

"That's why we think the most efficient and effective measure is to destroy the product, the drug plantations and the drug laboratories," he said.

The United Nations said land devoted to opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose 7 percent this year to 1,310 square kilometers (506 sq miles), much of it in the less-secure south and east.

"This tremendous amount of heroin is produced on a relatively small territory ... about the area of New York City," Ivanov said.

He lobbied for creation of a digital poppy map that would identify poppy plantations and show where eradication was working, or not. The publicly accessible map would use surveillance data gathered by American drones and possibly a Russian-American satellite dedicated to the task.

Ivanov said Russia, which fought its own costly war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, had also embarked on a concerted effort to treat its own addicts, which critics say it has often failed to do up to now.

Scientists were working on a new pharmaceutical approach that would suppress the urge to use while not substituting one drug for another. Russian officials have rejected methadone, saying it is merely exchanges one addiction for another.

U.S. addiction rates were also on the rise, Ivanov warned, with many users smoking or inhaling purer Afghan heroin.

(Editing by Eric Beech)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Man charged with trying to assassinate Obama

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 09:05 PM PST

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A 21-year-old man who called President Barack Obama the "devil" and "anti-Christ" was charged on Thursday with trying to assassinate the U.S. leader by opening fire on the White House with an assault rifle.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, were not in Washington at the time of the shooting Friday night and no one was hurt.

Oscar Ortega-Hernandez of Idaho Falls, Idaho, appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Pittsburgh, who ordered him transferred to Washington. He was arrested on Wednesday at a hotel near Indiana, Pennsylvania.

No one was hurt in the shooting on Friday night. The Secret Service said one bullet broke a White House window but was stopped by protective ballistic glass, and the other round struck the exterior of the building.

A witness reported seeing the occupant of a dark car shooting at the White House and speed away, while another witness reported hearing eight "popping" noises from a dark car that sped away, according to court papers.

A Honda Accord with Idaho licence plates was found abandoned nearby with a semi-automatic assault rifle with a large scope as well as three loaded magazines of ammunition, nine spent shell casings, an aluminium baseball bat and brass knuckles, according to court papers.

A witness reported seeing the car's driver flee on foot. The Honda was registered to Ortega-Hernandez, the court papers said.

FBI investigators who scoured the White House grounds on Wednesday found several bullet impacts on the south side of the executive mansion on the second story or above. The president's family quarters are on those upper floors.

Ortega-Hernandez was charged with attempted assassination of the president, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said at the court hearing.

If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

He appeared in court wearing a white jumpsuit and said nothing except "yes, ma'am," when asked by Judge Cynthia Eddy if he understood the charges against him.

A witness interviewed in Idaho who "knows Ortega-Hernandez well" said he had become increasingly agitated against the government, according to a FBI affidavit.

The witness told authorities that Ortega-Hernandez wanted to "hurt" Obama and referred to him as "the anti-Christ," according to the affidavit. Another witness interviewed in Idaho told authorities that Ortega-Hernandez "was very specific that President Obama was the problem with the government" and that he was "the devil," according to the court papers.

The witness said Ortega-Hernandez had been "preparing for something," the affidavit said.

Earlier on November 11, police in Arlington, Virginia had responded to a report of a suspicious person who identified himself as Ortega-Hernandez, the affidavit also said.

Arlington police took photos of him and released him after he declined to let them search his car, which was nearby, it said.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Doina Chiacu)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

NBC picks up 'The Munsters' pilot

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 07:00 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Herman, Lily, Eddie Munster and the rest of the supernatural gang are coming back to the small screen, but probably not in the same way you remember them.

NBC announced that it has picked up the pilot for its revamp of the '60s monster comedy ''The Munsters,'' billing it as an ''imaginative reinvention'' of the classic series and ''a visually spectacular one-hour drama.''

Drama? This might be interesting. Also upping the intrigue factor - Bryan Fuller, of decidedly morbid offerings ''Dead Like Me'' and ''Pushing Daisies,'' is serving as writer and executive producer.

The project has been a matter of back-and-forth for the network - NBC initially greenlit the pilot last September, but passed after seeing Fuller's first script.

However, incoming NBC honcho Robert Greenblatt had enough faith in the project to give it another chance.

The revamp is being produced by Universal Television.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Model Beverly Johnson lands reality show on OWN

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 05:23 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Despite whatever growing pains the Oprah Winfrey Network might be experiencing, the fledgling cable channel is charging ahead with new series.

OWN announced Wednesday that it is launching a new reality show - sorry, ''docu-series'' - starring model Beverly Johnson.

The series, titled ''Beverly's Full House,'' will chronicle Johnson's attempt to mend her strained relationship with her daughter Anansa - also a model - after she moves into mom's Palm Springs home in order to weather the tough economy.

Anansa's husband, David, and newborn daughter, Ava, are also along for the reality ride.

OWN's announcement promises that the series will be ''humorous and heartfelt'' - as if there were any doubt.

Produced by Good Clean Fun (which brought the world ''Harry Loves Lisa''), with Johnson executive-producing along with GCF's Jason Carbone and Nick Lee, ''Beverly's Full House'' will premiere in February.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Starry treat in Mysteries of Love

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 04:35 PM PST

TVB stars Kenneth Ma and Joyce Tang unveil the Hong Kong series that will grace our small screen next year.

IT turns out that we will get to see more of TVB star Kenneth Ma on TV soon.

Tune in to 8TV next February and you would see him cracking crime mysteries as a smart detective opposite Raymond Lam's genius physicist in Mysteries Of Love.

In March, watch him deliver some impressive kicks and punches as Kevin Cheng's brother in kung fu drama A Fistful Of Stances. Next, find out how he wins the heart of Fala Chen in Can't Buy Me Love (airing in August), a hilarious tale of how a spoilt princess, played by Charmaine Sheh, goes head-to-head with her commoner husband (Moses Chan).

The three TVB drama series are part of what's in store for 8TV and Ntv7 viewers in the coming year, as unveiled at Media Prima's 2012 content line-up recently.

"Each is unique. Mysteries Of Love has a youthful and vibrant feel to it, while A Fistful Of Stances has a strong plot and the roles are well-written. Can't Buy Me Love is a feel-good comedy," said Ma who was in Kuala Lumpur recently at the invitation of Media Prima.

Among other TVB offerings in store are No Regrets (on 8TV in December), the series that helped Wayne Lai and Sheren Tang bag again the awards of Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively, at the TVB Anniversary Awards (following their previous win in Rosy Business).

Other series to be aired on 8TV are A Chip Off The Old Block (January), In The Eye Of The Beholder (May), The Beauty Of The Game (July), Every Move You Make (October) and When Lanes Merge (November).

On Ntv7, there'll be The Stew Of Love (January), A Pillow Case Of Mystery II (April), A Watchdog's Tale (May), The Season Of Fate (July) and Ghost Writer (November).

There's also Sisters Of Pearl (on Ntv7 in September), starring Jessica Hsuan, Macy Chan, and Kiki Sheung as sisters fighting over the family-owned jewel business.

It's an intriguing tale of power struggle and human nature, according to Joyce Tang, who plays the mistress of a jewellery businessman in the series.

There's more than meets the eye about her role, said the actress who was also at the event.

"She might seem to be a schemer at first. However, you'd come to realise that she's doing what she does to survive, instead of being power-hungry like the sisters have thought her to be.

"As the show progresses, she becomes a mother. That's when she starts to engage in a power struggle with the sisters, in order to provide a comfortable life for her child," Tang explained.

The two stars were fresh from shooting their respective series in Hong Kong. Ma has just taken off his surgical gloves as a brain surgeon in The Hippocratic Crush, a medical drama series co-starring Tavia Yeung.

"It follows the lives of doctors as well as the happenings taking place in a hospital. It highlights different medical cases such as brain and lung surgeries, as well as touching on every single division in the hospital. You also get to see the challenges faced by doctors in Hong Kong.

"It's packed with touching moments. I love this series a lot. The surgery scenes are great. We are very honoured to have two real-life doctors overseeing every single step of the surgical procedures, which makes it look professional," he explained.

Next, he will join the star-studded cast of The Prominent Family, a 40-episode costume drama surrounding a wealthy family.

On the other hand, Tang can be seen opposite Singaporean (now Hong Kong-based) musician and producer Hanjin Tan in Till Love Do Us Lie, a sitcom that's airing in Hong Kong now.

"We play a couple who gets into a speedy marriage. The sitcom explores the relationships between the two sexes in different situations and marriages. Hopefully, it will bring a knowing smile to audiences who've experienced similar situations," she said.

We wonder whether Ma and Tang are open to the idea of having a speedy wedding.

Ma, 37, thinks it's all about meeting the right person at the right time.

"I find it acceptable. When everything aligns and that you are ready, you can do it," he said.

At his side, Tang interjected: "I heard you like Malaysian girls." Ma bashfully confirmed it, saying: "Yeah, for some reason I'm attracted to girls who are tanned. Most of the girls in Hong Kong have fair skin."

Asked whether she would follow in the footsteps of Gigi Leung and Kelly Lin – who both end up marrying guys they know for barely a year – Tang, 35, replied with a smile: "Maybe. It's quite romantic actually. Fate is unpredictable. Hopefully, it will happen to me.

"A fortune teller told me I would get married next year. I know you (the media) and my friends are concerned about me as I was asked about it (my relationship status) all the time (laughs). I'm still looking for the right candidate."

Well, is it possible for her onscreen chemistry with Tan – whom she described as being "quick-witted and funny" – to translate into real-life romance?

"He's OK, but he's too busy. Every week, he can only spend, like, three days on the set, what with his concerts, albums and (his job as a judge on reality TV singing competition) The Voice 3. He seems like he doesn't even have the time to sleep!" she quipped.

Meanwhile, Ma became the envy of men when he got to snog gorgeous women like Lisa S. (Daniel Wu's wife) and Bernice Liu in Mysteries Of Love, as his character is kind of a playboy.

"Yes, many claim that's the perks of my character!" said Ma with a laugh, adding: "However, as an actor, shooting scenes like this can be tricky if your co-star is not comfortable with it. You would not want her to think that you are taking advantage of her, but luckily for me, my co-stars, such as Liu and even new TVB acting class graduates or those from the (Miss Hong Kong) pageant, were very professional. So there are no awkward moments and the shooting was made much easier."

Interestingly, one actress whom he has yet to collaborte with turns out to be hs companion on this trip to Malaysia.

"I have worked with most TVB actresses, but I've never worked with Joyce before, even though we have been colleagues for so many years. I really love her acting; hopefully, I will get the chance to star opposite her in a drama series," he said.

He's also eager to prove his versatility as an actor, as evident in his choice of shedding his Mr Nice Guy persona in Grace Under Fire and The Other Truth this year.

"I've been portraying the goody two-shoes, which is why I have requested to play villains. It's good for an actor. I'm not scared of being typecast (as the bad guy). The audiences are smart. They focus on the plot instead of the characters," he said.

Apart from turning evil on the screen, he would love to play a tragic hero or take up roles in a stage or a movie, while Tang hopes to challenge herself playing a mute.

And listen up Malaysian producers, both stars are keen to shoot a Malaysian production.

"We will agree to do it at once! It's so comfortable here, what with the good food and nice weather. Please get us to star in one soon!" they gushed.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

The Star Online: Business

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Business

FBM KLCI up, bucking regional trends

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 05:24 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The local FBM KLCI was higher in early trade despite opening in the red, bucking regional trends and escalating concerns over the Eurozone sovereign crisis.

In a market preview, HwangDBS Vickers Research said the bearish external mood will probably force the benchmark FBM KLCI to slide towards the immediate support level of 1,445 ahead.

The local bourse added 2.64 points to 1,468.11.

While on the local economic front, it said investors will be watching out for the third quarter gross domestic product report card this evening, which would indicate whether the Malaysian economy is on track to meet the official full-year growth forecast of 5% to 5.5%

Stocks to watch today, TSH Resources surprised consensus with a higher net profit, while YTL Land and Kossan Rubber posted results below expectations.

Nymex crude oil was shed 48 cents to USD98.31 per barrel. Spot gold was USD1,715.30 per troy ounce while silver was USD31.33 per ounce.

The ringgit was quoted at 3.1613 to the USD and 4.2563 to the euro.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Corporate Results In Brief

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 04:03 PM PST

Friday November 18, 2011

Kuala Lumpur: Results fromKossan, CBIP, Kian Joo, MMHE and Tan Chong.


Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Euro zone, technicals unnerve Wall Street

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 03:52 PM PST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Trigger-happy investors dumped stocks on Thursday, scared by the market's sudden fall through a key technical level brought on by more worries about Europe's debt troubles.

The S&P 500 steadily slipped through the morning until it broke through 1,225, when selling picked up in both the futures and cash markets.

Investors have been increasingly focused on Europe, and markets were cautious early as bond yields in Spain and Italy rose to levels viewed as unsustainable.

Some market sources cited squabbling between Democrats and Republicans on the congressional "supercommitee" formed to find ways to cut the U.S. debt.

But Peter Costa, president at Empire Executions said from the NYSE floor that none of the catalysts market participants were pointing to as triggering the sell-off was new "news."

"It doesn't take much if you're teetering on a support or resistance level," he said. "When you're on the precipice of either one, and something comes out, this computer-generated trading pops into effect and that usually accelerates any reaction you're seeing."

The fall around midday was swift and volume picked up once the 1,225 level was breached. About 2.83 million S&P E-Mini futures contracts traded on Thursday, with nearly 250,000 changing hands in an unusually busy 15-minute period when the market fell more than 1 percent.

The S&P struggled to break above 1,225 in August and September before piercing it on the way to a two-month high in late October. Computer-generated trading usually uses previous clusters of buying and selling as triggers.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> fell 134.71 points, or 1.13 percent, to 11,770.88. The S&P 500 <.spx> lost 20.73 points, or 1.68 percent, to 1,216.18. The Nasdaq Composite <.ixic> dropped 51.62 points, or 1.96 percent, to 2,587.99.

About 8.6 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, above the current daily volume average of just above 8 billion shares.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a ratio of more than 4 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, more than five stocks fell for every two that rose.

Declines in materials and energy shares accelerated with losses of more than 3 percent in crude futures and copper prices <.cmcu3>. The S&P energy index <.gspe> fell 2.1 percent and the S&P materials index <.gspm> declined 2.9 percent.

Tech shares also dragged the market lower, with the S&P technology index <.gspt> down 2.2 percent. The 10 major S&P 500 sectors closed in the red for the day.

The broad sell-off repeated the pattern seen lately in which stocks are treated as an asset class, with little differentiation between winners and losers.

"Pretty much everything's for sale. There's a move toward cash, and (US) bond prices are (up)," said Tom Schrader, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets in Baltimore.

Earlier, Spanish bond yields hit their highest level since 1997 at a 10-year auction, while a French bond auction also drew high yields.

The 7 percent mark for bond yields that both Italian and Spanish benchmarks are close to is viewed as a line in the sand. Both Greece and Portugal were forced to seek bailouts after yields hit similar levels.

Investors have worried that the debt problems in the euro zone could tip the global economy into another recession, even as U.S. data has suggested the economy is picking up.

New U.S. claims for jobless benefits hit a seven-month low last week and permits for future home construction rebounded strongly in October, the latest data to suggest the economy was gaining traction.

While traders on the New York Stock Exchange floor gloomily watched prices fall, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters marched, vowing to interfere with business. But trading was unaffected and about 100 protesters were arrested.

The Occupy Wall Street movement criticizes an economic system members view as favoring the rich and powerful. It has chosen Wall Street as a symbol of corporate greed.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

The Star Online: Sports

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Sports

Texas promoters still hoping GP will go ahead

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 06:47 PM PST

AUSTIN, Texas, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Texas promoter Tavo Hellmund said he remains hopeful that Austin can still host next year's planned U.S. Grand Prix despite losing the rights to the race and the apparent support of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Ecclestone said he cancelled his original contract with Hellmund's Full Throttle Productions because of a breach of contract and may axe the race altogether.

The 81-year-old Briton was left dealing with the track developers, Circuit of the Americas (COTA), but has since run out of patience with them, saying they had a week to agree to a new contract and pay up or he would scrap the event.

Hellmund, whose father worked with Ecclestone to put on the Mexican Grand Prix in the 1980s, said his company and the race organisers only had themselves to blame for the fallout.

"The reason we don't have a contract with Formula One is because as a project, we have failed many times over to fulfill our financial obligations to Formula One. It's literally that simple," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"Right now we should be praising Mr. Ecclestone. We were in breach on multiple issues as late as May. And he sent numerous requests and letters that we were all aware of how to fix it and we failed to do that."

Hellmund said the problem was caused by a rift between Full Throttle Productions and COTA. He said he tried to buy them out, but they declined, then he agreed to allow COTA to buy him out but they have not yet reached a deal.

"I don't really want to get into the weeds about that. Let's just say there's been a difference of philosophy and for the good of the project I'm willing to do whatever it is for the project to go forward," he explained.

The prospects of the race going ahead as planned in November next year were fading fast with construction halted at the track after COTA officials said they wanted to see a contract, then state government officials ruling out the possibility of a public bailout.

But COTA president Steve Sexton indicated on Thursday that a 2013 startup might be a possibility and Hellmund said he was still optimistic that 2012 could be saved.

"I was encouraged today to see some news reports that the door is still open for us to be able to fix that," Hellmund said.

"And I've also been encouraged in recent days to see that apparently all the funding's in place. And so with that being said I'm really optimistic and hopeful that we're going to get this done and we're going to have a Grand Prix next year."

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Dutchman Luiten leads after first round in Malaysia

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 06:45 PM PST

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Dutchman Joost Luiten was confirmed as the first round leader of the Iskandar Johor Open when play was completed early on Friday at the rain-hit $2 million co-sanctioned event.

A late afternoon thunderstorm halted play on Thursday and left 78 players to complete their first round at Horizon Hills early on Friday.

Luiten shot an eight-under par 63 prior to the stoppage and was still on top when the rest of the field finished.

Sweden's Daniel Chopra joined defending champion Padraig Harrington, Marcus Fraser and Gregory Bourdy in second place a shot behind Luiten.

Chopra, who won the event in 1993, resumed his round in a greenside bunker on the sixth hole, which he birdied, and went on to card a 64.

"I stayed very patient as I knew this is a golf course where if you play well, you will be able to make some birdies," Chopra said.

"I didn't hit the ball that well this morning. But now with a bit of break, maybe I can go out and hit some balls and find that momentum."

One of the biggest movers on Friday was Thailand's Chapchai Nirat, who resumed his round tied for 14th but climbed the leaderboard with a 65 to finish in sixth spot.

Colin Montgomerie birdied his last hole in a two-under par round of 69. Paul McGinley, meanwhile, has withdrawn from the event and returned home with a knee injury.

The Irishman is to undergo keyhole surgery on his left knee in the coming weeks but is hopeful of returning to competition in January. McGinley had an 81 in the first round.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Former world champion Mullings found guilty of doping

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 05:57 PM PST

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Former world champion Steve Mullings was found guilty of a doping offence on Thursday that could land the Jamaican sprinter a lifetime ban from athletics.

Mullings, 28, who will learn his penalty on Nov. 21, was found guilty by a three-member Jamaica Anti-Doping Disciplinary panel for using the banned diuretic furosemide, which could serve as a possible masking agent for other drugs.

"It is a unanimous verdict that Mr. Mullings is guilty of having furosemide in both his 'A' and 'B' samples," Lennox Gayle, who chaired the disciplinary panel, told Reuters.

A stay of execution was granted while the panel awaits correspondence the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) in regards to Mullings' previous two-year ban in 2004 for excessive levels of testosterone.

Mullings' lead attorney Alando Terrelonge said he is grateful the disciplinary panel decided to delay handing down its sentence until next week. "The document that we are awaiting from the JAAA is very important because it is based on the contents of that document, that we can make (final) submissions," he told Reuters.

Mullings, who won gold in the 4x100 relay team at Berlin in 2009, tested positive for the substance after placing third in the 100 metres final of the Jamaican national trials in June.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

The Star Online: Nation

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Nation

Joy for barred UPSR pupils

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 04:03 PM PST

BINTANGOR: The three pupils of SK Bandar Bintangor who were initially not allowed to sit for the UPSR examination last September received their result slips from their teacher yesterday morning.

The boys are Idie Ganyol, Richmend Mangi and Edward Ujoh Augustine. Idie managed to get 1D and 4Es, Richmend got 3Ds and 2Es while Edward obtained 2Cs and 3Es.

The parents lodged a police report after they learnt that their sons were locked in a room in school and not allowed to sit for the examination because the school considered them academically poor and worried that their results might affect the school's overall performance.

After the complaint and under a directive from Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister, the boys were allowed to sit for the examination at the Bintangor education office.

When met at their longhouse, Rumah Selat, at Sungai Janting about 10 minutes' drive from the school, Edward's mother Molly Nillau said she was relieved that her son finally obtained the result slip.

"I am happy that he sat for the examination. Although he is not as bright as other students, he deserved to sit for the assessment," said Nillau.

She added that the school embarrassed her family by its earlier decision not to allow Edward to take the examination.

When asked if she was satisfied with the results, Nillau, 39, said she believed her son had tried his best.

"I am relieved that he will enter Form One next year," Nillau stressed, adding that she believed achieving academic excellence was not of utmost importance in a person's life.

Idie's father Ganyol Lubok also said he was relieved that his son had received the examination results.

"Not all children can obtain good results in school or in examinations. My son may be academically poor but he should be given the same opportunity as others to sit for the examination," Lubok said in a telephone interview.

He added that at least Idie could enter Form One and he hoped the boy would study harder and get better results in future.

"If he has to drop out of school now, I would be very worried about his future," the 39-year-old farmer said.

Related Stories:
Six pairs of Penang twins among UPSR 2011 best students
5As scorer greets success with tears at dad's funeral

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

5As scorer greets success with tears at dad’s funeral

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 04:02 PM PST

BUTTERWORTH: A 5As scorer shed tears of sadness when state Education Department director Ahmad Tarmuzi Kamaruddin gave the UPSR results slip to her at her house in Taman Paya Keladi here.

Nur Hazwani Rosaidi received the slip at about 11.30am yesterday at the funeral of her father Rosaidi Awang Kechik.

Rosaidi died in a road accident at 7.30pm on Wednesday.

Rosaidi, who worked as an officer at Bank Simpanan Nasional in Jalan Macalister, George Town, died when the motorcycle he was riding collided with a lorry in front of SMK Datuk Onn here.

Her mother Haslinda Md Zaki, who is a teacher, said Rosaidi took leave so that he could accompany Nur Hazwani to collect her results at SK Bertam Indah, Kepala Batas.

"He was confident that Nur Hazwani would pass the exam with flying colours," she said.

Nur Hazwani said her father had promised to take her and her two siblings for a tour if she did well in the UPSR.

Related Stories:
Joy for barred UPSR pupils
Six pairs of Penang twins among UPSR 2011 best students

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Koh: I will not contest

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 04:00 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Gerakan president Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon will not contest in the next general election to start off "leadership renewal" in the party.

However, he continued to be dogged by several issues brought up by party leaders.

He told a press conference yesterday that he would concentrate on campaigning for Gerakan candidates "instead of focusing on winning a seat just for myself".

Koh, however, gave no indication of his plans on his presidency, only saying that he would state his stand after the national polls.

He also deflected questions on his position as Penang Barisan Nasional chief, noting that the appointment of state chairman was the prerogative of the BN top leadership that decides in consultation with the supreme council.

The former Penang chief minister said his decision not to contest was the "first step" towards leadership renewal in the party, where new blood would be given greater responsibility to deal with national and local issues.

"This is a personal decision, but it was discussed several times with the CWC (central working committee) and the CC (central committee).

"I have informed the Prime Minister and he has accepted it," he said at the Gerakan headquarters here.

Asked if this had anything to do with his earlier pledge to "sacrifice" for the party, Koh clarified that he simply meant he would sacrifice his time and energy for the party, adding that he would not reconsider his decision, even if some party members wanted him to contest.

There have been calls from Gerakan grassroots members for Koh to contest the Bagan parliamentary seat, now held by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, to prove his mettle.

"Is there such a need to (contest in Bagan)? I have fought his father twice, in 1986 and 1995.

"I have fought seven elections and they were mostly tough fights. I'm perhaps the only one who has fought Lim Kit Siang twice," he said.

Related Stories:
Beginning of the end for Koh
Tsu Koon wants to focus on strengthening Gerakan, says Najib
Muhyiddin urges all to accept Koh's decision
Announcement no big surprise to party leaders

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Girl guide

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 06:45 AM PST

The Unforgotten Coat

Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 112 pages

WHEN two Mongolian brothers join Julie's Year Six class, they declare her their "Good Guide", making her responsible for getting them settled into their new surroundings. Julie accepts her role and carries out her "duties" with enthusiasm. The more she gets to know the brothers, the more she wants to know about them and their background, and the mysterious "demon" they say they are being followed by. What she doesn't expect is what happens next!

My Name Is Elizabeth

Author: Annika Dunklee

Illustrator: Matthew Forsythe

Publisher: Kids Can Press, 24 pages

Elizabeth loves her name. All of it. She doesn't like Liz or Lizzie, Beth or Bess, Betty or Betsy. It's "Elizabeth Alfreda Roxanne Carmelita Bluebell Jones" she declares finally, unable to take any more presumptuous shortening of her beloved moniker. But just "Elizabeth" is fine too. Kids and adults can learn a thing or two from this picture book – don't shorten someone's name unless you've been told to!

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, 432 pages

Karou is a beautiful teenager with blue hair and a gift for drawing who lives in the in the Czech Republic. She attends art school in Prague and her sketchbooks are filled with images of monsters that her friends believe she's just dreamed up. But Karou was, in fact, raised by chimaera and is used to travelling between worlds and realities. Lately, she's begun to question who, or what, she really is, and when a mysterious winged stranger enters her life, the shocking truth of her identity is finally revealed.


Author: Colin Meloy

Illustrator: Carson Ellis

Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd, 560 pages

Prue McKeel's ordinary life turns extraordinary when her baby brother is carried off by a murder of crows into the mysterious forest on the edge of Portland. This is the Impassable Wilderness and Prue must venture into its dark depths to save her brother. She sets off with her friend Curtis, and they soon find themselves in a bleak, strange and cruel world, caught up in the struggle for the freedom of this wilderness called Wildwood.

A Few Blocks

Author/Illustrator: Cybele Young

Publisher: Groundwood Books, 48 pages

When Ferdie drags his feet on the way to school, his big sister, Viola, encourages him by cooking up tall tales in which he features as a character. It all involves taking a few more steps in the right direction, but after they've recovered treasure, fought a dragon and saved a princess, it's Viola's turn to drag her feet. Now Ferdie has to use his imagination to get his sister to school. Can he do it?


Author/Illustrator: Maurice Sendak

Publisher: HarperCollins, 40 pages

Poor Bumble-Ardy is a young pig whose birthday is always forgotten by his parents – on purpose! After he turns eight, his family end up being eaten and Bumble goes to live with his kindly Aunt Adeline. When his ninth birthday rolls around, Bumble decides to throw a party. He invites all his friends who raise a real ruckus and enrage Aunt Adeline. Will Bumble live to see his 10th birthday?

The Aviary

Author: Kathleen O'Dell

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 32 pages

Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley's mother is a servant to the old matriarch of the Glendoveer family, and Clara has lived at Glendoveer Mansion for as long as she can remember. When old Mrs Glendoveer dies, the family's many secrets start coming to light and Clara finds herself compelled to get to the bottom of the mysteries harboured by the house, including the murder of the children who were kidnapped years ago – and the strange message that the birds in the aviary seem to be trying to give her.


Author: Franny Billingsley

Publisher: Dial, 368 pages

Briony has been taught to hate herself. After all, she is a selfish, jealous girl and it's her fault her twin sister is ill and their stepmother is dead. To crown everything, Briony can see and speak to spirits. This makes her a witch, and Briony feels she deserves to be put to death as one. But then she meets golden-eyed Eldric, and his kindness and friendship change everything and makes Briony want to live.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

What a riot

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 06:40 AM PST

Fantastical scenes of murder and mayhem lend this book a subtle touch of humour. Just don't take everything seriously.

Day Of The Oprichnik

Author: Vladimir Sorokin

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 191 pages

FOUND my way downstairs and drank a cup of tea. And looking up, I noticed I was late. I then proceeded to put a severed dog's head on my red, government-issued, Chinese-manufactured Mercedov car and spent the rest of the day killing enemies of the state, assaulting their wives, sending their children to orphanages, ingesting a hallucinogenic fish, before retiring to a plush bath-house for an orgy that gives new meaning to the term 'organs of the state'.

In essence, the paragraph above summarises a day in the life of Andrei Danilovich Komiaga, Vladimir Sorokin's narcissistic, cold-hearted, Tsar-obeying protagonist in Day Of The Oprichnik.

Set in Russia in 2028, Day Of The Oprichnik is a darkly humorous novel with a dystopian bent. However, Sorokin's near-futuristic society represents a sort of mutant amalgamation of 500 years of the worst aspects of Russian and Soviet life.

In this near-futuristic setting, Russia is no longer ruled by the Soviets (the "Red period") or the cowboy capitalist oligarchs (the "White period") of the immediate post-Soviet era. In Sorokin's hands, his Russia is ruled once again by an all-powerful Tsar. Russian political life is dominated by the Tsar and its soul is governed by the newly ascendant Russian Orthodox Church.

The novel centres around Andrei, whom we follow throughout the course of day, from the moment he wakes from a drunken stupor to the moment he passes out because of drinking too much, and a bunch of unwholesome activities in between.

As the title suggests, Andrei is an oprichnik, a Russian term which Sorokin describes as the recreation of Russia's first KGB, an organisation created in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible. The oprichnik of Ivan the Terrible's time tortured and killed the Tsar's enemies, both real and imagined, dressed in black robes, and wandered around carrying the severed heads of dogs in order to "sniff out reason". In Sorokin's 2028 version, the oprichnik still dress in black, but they mount the heads of dogs on their government-issued cars (which we are reminded, in more graphic detail in the novel, are manufactured in neighbouring China).

Though during the time of the Tsar's rule Russia thrived in the field of the arts, in 2028 Russia, the Tsarist government recalls the era of Stalin and the worst excesses of the Soviet state. Puritanical social structures and the zealous oversight of the arts and literature recalls the obsessive policing of the arts and literature during the Soviet regime. One cannot help but wonder just what Sorokin is trying to convey to his readers about his vision of Russia in the 21st century and of Russia today (as opposed to 2028).

As an example of Soviet-era debauchery, Sorokin goes into great depths in the bathhouse orgy scene, whereby Andrei and a dozen or so of his fellow male oprichniks partake in a weird sexual ritual in which they are linked together like a caterpillar!

As with all translated works, some of the original meaning may have got lost in translation, in particular, some of the references Sorokin makes.

Readers who are familiar with Russian literature, history and politics or who can read and understand Russian may find Day Of The Oprichnik more accessible than those who aren't au fait with the country and its history. I am sure the novel is a lot funnier in the original Russian and while hints of humour remain in this translated text, the original work would probably better display it. And as I am not very familiar with Russian politics, many of the snide remarks made by Sorokin about present day Russia did not make much of an impact on me, which is a shame.

Those who are familiar with Sorokin's works will not be easily offended by the graphic details documenting the rape, pillage, murder, bribery, sexual orgies and easy access to vodka as described in the novel. However, if you are, like this reviewer, a first-timer, the debauchery described might seem a tad harsh and in your face. But if you keep your sense of humour and not take everything at face value, you'll have a better experience. I mean, there is no way that Andrei can be that sexually active and still move around unaffected after downing countless tumblers of vodka!

Day Of The Oprichnik is not a novel that would appeal to mainstream tastes; it is for a niche group of readers. For those who want to have a whimsical taste of Russia, I highly recommend Day Of The Oprichnik. It will make you want to discover more about the great and turbulent nation that is Russia in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Perak of yore

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 06:40 AM PST

Here's a treasure trove of postcards that provides rare insight into life in a key Malayan state in the early days.

Perak Postcards: 1890s-1940s

Authors: Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Malcom Wade and Khoo Salma Nasution

Publisher: Areca Books, 336 pages

DID you ever wish you could see what Malaysia looked like a century ago? Well, instead of wishing for a time-travel machine, you can now turn to Perak Postcards: 1890s-1940s and follow its expertly guided tour of the towns, industries, and people of that state in the past.

This unusual, beautifully produced book uses rare images of streets and worksites to lead readers into an earlier time when Perak was at the centre of economic development on the Malay peninsula. It offers readers not only visual images but a well-written, sophisticated text that pairs contemporary commentary with details on the sources of the postcards and the paths the missives travelled.

Postcards are not just pictures with a stamp. They combine business and pleasure, circulating public and personal information. Photographers, printers, merchants, writers and readers cooperated through these cards to tell stories about Perak, selecting what they wanted to be seen and remembered.

Parents sent pictures of Ipoh buildings where they worked to children living in Britain. A Mandailing sent his brother a card showing the main street of Papan, where he lived. The urge to connect one's own experience to a particular site or space crossed ethnic and social lines.

Cards also travelled long distances. Some of the best images were printed and hand-tinted in Europe. One picture of the Perak Club in Taiping (48b), whose publisher was the Penang photographer Adolph Kaulfuss, was printed in Germany, then shipped back to Penang and sold to Tan Khai Sai, who sent it to a collector in Stockholm in 1914. Postcards brought Perak into a global circulation of images and information.

Perak Postcards takes its readers on a memorable journey through Taiping, Kuala Kangsar, Teluk Anson and Ipoh, as well as the small towns of the Kinta Valley. Although the images have a static quality, imposed by the photographic technology of that time, their overwhelming message is that of modernity. Automobiles share roads with bicycles and pedestrians, and shophouses are overtopped by street lamps and electricity wires. Railway stations, telegraph offices and clock towers are iconic images of the early 20th-century Perak townscape, and a series of images with dates show the evolution of the built environment. A particularly fine series surveys the campus and activities of the Sultan Idris Training College.

Photographers and consumers identified their towns with the architecture and institutions of modernity that were brought to the region along with colonial rule. What we might see nowadays as "heritage", they regarded with pride as progress.

Artistic prints of electric power stations, steam launches and pontoon bridges communicate some of the power and appeal those subjects had for contemporaries. Those few images that portray Perak as an exotic place inhabited by orang asli offer a convenient and clear measurement of the social distance separating these forest peoples and the urbanised senders of postcards.

Rare early images, printed in Singapore and Penang, show different types and stages of tin mining. Captions point to the differences among tin washing, open-cast mining, gravel pumps, and dredges, whose technologies' increasing scale dwarfed the crews of Chinese, Malay and Europeans labouring in their shadows.

Women, rarely seen in these postcard images, appear as dulang washers and gleaners. Small details – the hats, wicker baskets and hoes of the mine workers – give a sense of the weight of their physical labour in the sun.

The photographs depict brilliantly the material culture of work within this particular technological setting. They also convey a sobering ecological message of environmental devastation. Deforested slopes, deep open pits, and piles of sand and gravel surround machinery and men. The landscape of Perak as transformed by its inhabitants also emerges as a subject in these cards.

The appeal of these images extended well beyond the European community in Perak. Not only did Chinese collectors hoard and circulate postcards, but occasional hand-written messages in Tamil or Jawi script testify to their use by Malays and South Asians.

A small collection of cards owned and sent by a family of Mandailing penghulus (headmen) shows some of the ways in which cards helped educate Muslims to communicate with one another. Comfortably multilingual, this family sent messages sometimes in English, sometimes in Jawi script or Romanised Mandailing. They sent good wishes and asked for family news.

Raja Haji Muhammad Yacob, the first Malay photographer in Perak, had one of his photos printed on a card which he sent to his brother with Hari Raya greetings. Another card requested a holiday meeting using a picture of Ipoh's Anderson School, which the writer hoped would serve as a "remembrance". While some of the images chosen were of Malay villages or houses, others depicted a familial group of urban streets and public buildings.

Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Malcolm Wade, and Khoo Salma Nasution jointly produced this fine book, each adding particular expertise and enthusiasms.

Wade, an avid collector and postal historian, contributed most of the images and details on Perak post offices, post marks and publishers. Abdur-Razzaq, an expert in Mandailing history, introduces the volume with a lively tour of the difficult, early days of the postal system, when elephants and pony carts carried mail around the state and tried not to attract the attention of armed robbers. Khoo Salma, the author of several books on Penang and the Kinta Valley, helped produce the excellent descriptions of photos and local scenery.

Publisher Areca Books is to be congratulated on the high quality of the reproduced images, cover and binding. The work demonstrates the sophistication as well as the importance of heritage activities and activists in Perak, whose detailed local knowledge has reclaimed these remarkable images.

This book deserves wide circulation.

n Lynn Hollen Lees is Professor of History and Vice Provost for Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Santa’s coming to town

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 06:10 AM PST

Arthur Christmas will surely draw you into the yuletide mood.

YES, it's almost that time of the year again, when it starts snowing, the tinsel is brought out, and homes begin to smell like gingerbread ... well, in the movies at least.

For this yuletide season, Arthur Christmas comes to visit. At the heart of this film is a story with the ingredients of a Christmas classic – a family in a state of comic dysfunction and an unlikely hero: Santa's youngest son, Arthur.

In a nutshell, it's all about kids everywhere getting their gifts on time, and how Arthur, the least capable Clause, embarks on a mission to deliver the last present before Christmas morning dawns.

Directed by Sarah Smith, Arthur Christmas features the voice performances of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen.

The movie marks Sony Pictures Animation's first film collaboration with Aardman, the landmark animation company best-known for their award-winning and crowd-pleasing stop-motion films Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit.

The winners of over 400 international awards, including four Oscars (three for Best Animated Short Film, and one for Best Animated Feature Film for Were-Rabbit), Aardman delivers their second CG-animated project with Arthur Christmas, and takes on an ambitious subject: the delivery of two billion presents in one night.

"They have all the technology in the world and no expense is spared," says Sarah Smith, who directs and co-wrote Arthur Christmas, of Aardman. "This movie reveals what their equipment looks like and how they do it."

The movie, naturally, takes a few liberties with the Santa story. For instance, at the top of the (Santa) organisation is the man himself, Santa – but these days, he's more of a figurehead facing the prospect of retirement.

Apparently, the Clauses are a dynasty, a long line of Santas stretching back over 1,000 years! Running the day-to-day is Santa's firstborn son, Steve – an alpha male (voiced by none other than Laurie) the next in line to wear the red suit.

"Hugh is marvellous as Steve," says Smith, in the production notes for the movie. "The character is incredibly cool and slightly in love with himself – the kind of character that just doesn't quite get it.

"But Hugh completely gets it, and gave us a beautiful and funny performance."

Laurie says: "Steve takes himself a bit too seriously – he's sort of laughable at times, because he gets it so wrong. But we all do that from time to time.

"He's a very confident fellow who has plans for modernising and updating the operation – he's looking to run a state-of-the-art Christmas, and he's impatient with the softer, fluffier side of the holiday. He might not have all the social skills you'd want in a boss, but he's just doing things the way he thinks they ought to be done."

Sounds a bit like a certain doctor character Laurie is more famous for playing on TV. Just why did Laurie decide to play the part of Steve in this warm and happy holiday movie?

Laurie says: "I was drawn to the role by his very attractive silhouette.

"He's a fine figure of a man and I don't often get asked to play fine figures of men. I've played sort of strange and unattractive men, and insects and rather twisted sort of beings."

And then there's Arthur, Santa's youngest son.

"Arthur believes in Christmas, and not just because he's been born into the family business," says McAvoy, who voices Arthur.

"He believes it in his soul – there's nobody else in the world who cares about Christmas more than Arthur."

The movie, according to McAvoy, revolves around the premise that every single child in the world must receive a present on Christmas night.

"What happens is, one night, one child doesn't receive a present and basically the international conglomerate organisation that is Christmas and the North Pole, as run by Steve and Santa, decide that actually that's just like point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-one percent of a failure and actually, when you balance the books, that's OK because the success rate is so high, because Christmas is becoming a bit of a business."

But Arthur decides that that's not good enough, and goes on a mission to get that child his gift ... and in time, too.

Don't think for a minute that just because it's a movie targeted at the younger audience that all sense of logic was thrown out the door.

For director Smith and her co-writer Peter Baynham, half the fun of writing the screenplay was working out the math of Santa's operation – and of Arthur's heroic mission. "

Arthur Christmas opens in Malaysian cinemas on Dec 1.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Fairest of all

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 05:50 AM PST

THE trailer for Snow White And The Huntsman proves that the most delicious character in this fairy tale is the Evil Queen.

In this particular version, helmed by first-time director Rupert Sanders, she is played by Charlize Theron. And throughout the trailer, we hear Theron saying her character's lines in a controlled tone, only to see the character then calmly suck the life out of a woman as a means to maintain her beauty (who needs botox, eh?).

Judging from the title, the Huntsman who is assigned the task of taking out Snow White's heart in the woods has become an important character. He is played by Chris Hemsworth who proves that he can swing a weapon – be it a hammer as the God of Thunder or an axe in this film – in a most stylish manner.

This film also boasts really cool special effects – the famed mirror melts into gold liquid to form a man with a veil over his face; men breaking into a thousand pieces; the Evil Queen transforming into a hundred crows. Wait, what of Snow White herself – portrayed by Kristen Stewart? Well, she doesn't look like a dainty princess who is waiting to be rescued. She actually wears armour and carries a sword.

The teaser trailer for Mirror, Mirror – the other Snow White film – takes a more comedic route. Sorry, Julia Roberts (who portrays the Evil Queen), but Charlize Theron rules.

Snow White And The Huntsman is scheduled to arrive in our cinemas on May 31, 2012.

Small fry

THE short playing before The Muppets (in cinemas on Dec 8) is titled Toy Story Toons Small Fry. It sees our favourite toys saddled with an annoying three-inch-tall Buzz impersonator. Buzz Lightyear is somehow exchanged with a kids' meal toy version of Buzz after a stop at a fast-food restaurant. It is up to Woody and the gang to rescue their friend, who hopefully will rid them of the fake Buzz.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

Mahawangsa triumphs

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 05:43 AM PST

KRU Studios' epic film Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa kicks off the 24th Malaysian Film Festival's (FFM 24) awards night with three wins from the three categories it was nominated for at the Gemilang Cipta night. This only sets up for bigger wins for the studio at the festival's culminating night – dubbed Malam Gemilang Perdana – happening this Sunday at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC). Mahawangsa is nominated in nine categories, including best director, best screenplay and best costume.

On Wednesday, it won for best poster, best visual effects and best song. What makes the win especially sweet for KRU Studios is that the visual effects category has just been introduced to the festival this year. The win is truly apt since the studio was the first production house in Malaysia to develop its own special effects department as another tool in storytelling on films.

Norman Abdul Halim, who heads the KRU Studios, said: "We are grateful the organiser has created this category as visual effects is very important to us. It allows the story to be larger than life amd is a means to elevate our films to international level."

KRU Studios is currently involved in making two films with international distribution stamps on them – Vikingdom which features Hollywood actor Dominic Purcell and an animated film titled Ribbit.

Eyeing a larger market through films is something that the government is keen on. Gracing the evening event, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Haji Muhyiddin Haji Mohd Yassin said in his speech that the film industry is an important component in making Malaysia a high-earning country by 2020. It is particularly encouraging seeing that the 35 local films released in local cinemas as of this month have earned a total of RM86mil at the boxoffice.

He said: "Realising just how imperative films are, the government has allocated a RM200mil fund to expand our film industry."

Norman added: "(South) Korea is a great example (of international market penetration). Malaysia can create its own waves, just like Korea, if we take advantage of our unique multi-ethnic society and invest in the strong cultures."

And of course, KRU Studios is planning to do this with a little help from the latest technology, "We are looking at Stereoscopic 3D next."

The Gemilang Cipta night had an open-air concept with an open invitation to the public. Held at Panggung Anniversari at Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur, the night proved to be quite subdued not only because of the wet weather, but because there were silent pauses whenever it moved to the next category – be it because the presenters were out of sight or because no one briefed the hosts (Linda Onn and Halim Othman) on the goings-on.

Fortunately, the organisers got it right by getting the Orchestra Kuala Lumpur to provide the live music.

During the intervals of handing out the awards, there were performances as well where old hits like Khayalan performed by Roy from the film SH3, and Teruja performed by AF Nadia from the film Gol & Gincu entertaining the crowd.

Roy and Nadia also teamed up to sing the very popular song Sandarkan Pada Kenangan, originally sung by Jamal Abdillah and Fauziah Ahmad Daud in the 1984 film Azura.

The tune gave composer M. Nasir the best song award for that year's FFM and from the performance and audience's reaction, the song has obviously stood the test of time.

Nonetheless, the night still held a dash of drama. Raja Azmi walked out of the auditorium after Khir Rahman (the director of ... Dalam Botol, a film produced by Raja Azmi) lost in the Most Promising Director category to Jurey Latiff Rosli (Libas). The controversial ... Dalam Botol received three nominations out of the 10 categories under the Gemilang Cipta night.

Nadia Nisaa, who clinched the Most Promising Actress for her supporting role in Cun!, said the win was a sign that she should take acting more seriously.

"It was a very difficult role to play because I've never played someone so sweet. But director Osman Ali had faith in me, and the more experienced actors in the film helped me. It was really worth it."

Her next project sees her working with Osman Ali again.

Other winners

> Mia Sara – Best Child Actor, Sekali Lagi

> Taiyuddin Bakar – Most Promising Actor, Hantu Bonceng

> The Other One – Best Short Film

> Altitude Alto – Best Animated Feature

> Great Day – Best Film In Non-Bahasa Melayu

> FFM 24's Gemilang Perdana Awards Night will be aired live on Astro Prima (Astro Ch 105 at 9pm) on Sunday.

Full content generated by Get Full RSS.

The Star Online

Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved