Ahad, 20 November 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Suu Kyi to run for Myanmar parliament seat

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 09:33 PM PST

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will run in a parliamentary by-election expected by the end of the year, a top party official said on Monday, three days after her popular movement ended its boycott of the country's political system.

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at a ceremony to mark the country's National Day at the National League for Democracy (NLD) party's head office in Yangon November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

It will be the first time the Nobel Peace Prize laureate contests a seat herself having not stood as a candidate in her National League for Democracy's (NLD) 1990 election landslide, which was ignored by the then military regime and led to her lengthy incarceration.

"Aung San Suu Kyi intends to stand for the by-election but it's a bit early to say from which constituency she will run," Nyan Win, a member of the NLD's executive committee, told Reuters.

There are 48 seats available in Myanmar's new senate and lower house, which will be contested in polls expected by the end of the year.

The NLD was officially dissolved by the military junta for refusing to take part in last year's parliamentary polls because of "unfair and unjust" laws that would have prevented hundreds of its members from becoming lawmakers.

The legislature convened in February and is Myanmar's first since the late 1980s, when a unicameral "People's Assembly" controlled by the military's Burma Socialist Programme Party was scrapped.

Suu Kyi is the daughter of late independence hero Aung San and was a staunch opponent of the military during its 49 years of totalitarian rule. However, she has shown willingness to work with the new civilian government approved by parliament in March, even though it is run by former junta generals.

On Friday, the NLD voted unanimously to register the party and re-enter the political fray following an amendment to the constitution allowing those who have served sentences for crimes to take part in elections. Many NLD members, including Suu Kyi, are current or former political prisoners.

Since the annulled 1990 polls, Suu Kyi, 66, has spent most of the time in detention. She was released a year ago and still chooses to live in the lakeside house that on and off was her prison for 15 years.


She had earlier given no indication she herself was interested in becoming a lawmaker.

Her decision comes after Myanmar won a powerful endorsement on Friday, with U.S. President Barack Obama announcing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would visit the resource-rich country neighbouring China, citing "flickers of progress."

Clinton will be the highest-ranking American to visit Myanmar since a 1962 military coup. She will go to Myanmar for two days early next month and plans to meet Suu Kyi.

Clinton has said credible elections are one condition for ending U.S. sanctions, along with the release of more political prisoners and peace with ethnic minorities. Myanmar released 230 political prisoners last month and another amnesty is expected in the coming weeks and months.

The NLD, Myanmar's biggest opposition force, would have dominated parliament had the 1990 result been accepted by the junta. The regime annulled the 1990 result only last year, arguing that the NLD's win could not be recognised because it was in breach of a constitution drafted 18 years later.

Suu Kyi commands considerable influence over the party and Ko Ko Hlaing, a senior advisor to President Thein Sein, said on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bali last week that the NLD's decision to re-register was a "significant step."

The presence of Suu Kyi in parliament would be another dramatic sign of openness that could give more legitimacy to the retired generals in control of the country, who are seeking acceptance, engagement, support and investment from the international community.

Part of its plan was to expedite that process by lobbying to chair ASEAN in 2014, two years ahead of schedule.

The new government has started dialogue with Suu Kyi, moves welcomed by the West, which has imposed sanctions on the country because of its poor human rights record.

(Writing by Jason Szep and Martin Petty)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Spain's Rajoy triumphs with big election majority

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 09:33 PM PST

MADRID (Reuters) - Mariano Rajoy's centre-right People's Party stormed to a crushing election victory when voters punished the outgoing Socialist government for the worst economic crisis in generations.

People's Party (Partido Popular) supporters wave banners as they gather outside the party headquarters to wait for the results of Spain's general elections in Madrid, November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Rajoy, who led his party to an absolute parliamentary majority in Sunday's election, is widely expected to push through drastic measures to try to prevent Spain being sucked deeper into a debt crisis threatening the whole euro zone.

"Difficult times are coming," Rajoy, 56, told supporters in his victory speech, with financial markets hungry for details on how he will attack a steep public deficit threatening to push the euro zone's fourth economy towards a perilous bail-out.

"Spain's voice must be respected again in Brussels and Frankfurt... We will stop being part of the problem and will be part of the solution," said Rajoy, who is not scheduled to take office for a month.

Voters vented their rage on the Socialists, who led Spain from boom to bust in seven years in charge. With 5 million people out of work, the European Union's highest jobless rate, the country is heading into its second recession in four years.

Spaniards were the fifth European nation to throw out their leaders because of the spreading euro zone crisis, following Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Italy.

The People's Party (PP), formed from other rightist parties in the 1980s after Spain returned to democracy at the end of the Franco dictatorship, won the biggest majority for any party in three decades.

The PP took 186 seats in the 350-seat lower house, according to official results with 99.95 percent of the vote counted.

The Socialists slumped to 111 seats from 169 in the outgoing parliament, their worst showing in 30 years.


Spain's stock and bond prices may initially react positively to the vote because Rajoy, a former interior minister, is seen as market friendly and pro-business.

Rajoy, who will not be sworn in until around December 20, will not get much breathing space.

The nation's borrowing costs are at their highest since the euro zone was formed and yields on 10-year bonds soared last week to close to 7 percent, a level that forced other countries like Portugal and Greece to seek international bail-outs.

The Spanish Treasury heads back to the markets with debt auctions on Tuesday and Thursday this week, which will test confidence in Rajoy's pending leadership

"The fact the PP has won by a large majority is a very good sign for the markets. It means stability," said Teresa Sabada, professor of political communication at IESE business school in Madrid.

"The best scenario now would be for Spain to announce some new emergency austerity measures but I am not sure whether this will happen or not."

Economic gloom dominated the election campaign, with more than 40 percent of young Spaniards unable to find work and a million people at risk of losing their homes to the banks.

"Being a civil servant I'm not optimistic," said Jose Vazquez, 45, after he voted in Madrid.

"We can choose the sauce they will cook us in, but we're still going to be cooked."


Many leftist voters are concerned Rajoy will cut back Spain's treasured national health and education systems.

Too soured with the Socialists, they turned to smaller parties or stayed away from the polls. The abstention rate was higher than in the last election in 2008.

The United Left, which includes the former communist party, won 11 seats in the lower house, its best showing since the mid-1990s and way up from the previous legislature when it had only two seats.

Small parties doubled their presence in the lower house of parliament, taking 54 seats compared with 26 in the last legislature.

Rajoy has been cagey about exactly where he will cut public spending, but he has pledged to meet the country's target to trim its public deficit to 4.4 percent of economic output next year, which implies drastic measures.

But he risks pushing Spain back into its second recession in four years and provoking massive street protests.

When the Socialists took power in 2004 Spain was riding a construction boom fuelled by cheap interest rates, infrastructure projects and foreign demand for vacation homes on the country's warm coastlines.

Droves of young men dropped out of high school to take building jobs and bought flashy BMWs with their inflated wages.

But the government, consumers and companies were engulfed in debt when the building sector collapsed in 2007, leaving the landscape dotted with vacant housing developments, empty airports and underused highways.

"Something's got to change here in Spain, with 5 million people on the dole, this can't go on," said Juan Antonio Fernandez, 60, a jobless Madrid construction worker who switched to the PP from the Socialists.

Pablo Cortes, 27, who can find only occasional restaurant work despite his degree in architecture, saw no reason for optimism from the result.

"Does anyone really believe the PP is going to solve this? How, with more austerity for the have-nots and favours for the rich?" he said.

(Additional reporting by Nigel Davies, Martin Roberts and; Carlos Ruano in Madrid; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Ralph Gowling)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Arab League takes firm line with Syria on monitors

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 08:32 PM PST

AMMAN (Reuters) - The Arab League rejected a request by Damascus to amend plans for a 500-strong monitoring mission to Syria, and President Bashar al-Assad said he would not bow to international pressure to stop a crackdown against protesters.

Demonstrators against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad display a banner during a march after Friday prayers in Kafranbel near Adlb November 18, 2011. Picture taken November 18, 2011. REUTERS/Handout

Within hours of Assad ignoring a deadline to halt the bloody crackdown, residents said two rocket-propelled grenades hit a major ruling party building in Damascus on Sunday, the first such reported attack by insurgents inside the capital.

Confronted since March by street demonstrations against 41 years of rule by his family, Assad said he had no choice but to pursue his crackdown on unrest because his foes were armed.

"The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will continue. Syria will not bow down," he told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.

The Arab League, alarmed at the mounting death toll in Syria, rejected Damascus's request to alter a plan for the fact-finding mission, which would include military personnel and human rights experts.

"The additions requested by the Syrian counterpart affect the heart of the protocol and fundamentally change the nature of the mission," Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said in a letter to the Syrian government.

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said the plan as it stood compromised the country's sovereignty but Damascus had not rejected the mission

Moualem said the proposed mission had "pervasive jurisdiction that reaches the level of ... violating Syrian sovereignty" and that he would send the Arab League a letter with questions about its role.

"We will reply to the Arab League secretary general by responsibly presenting a number of queries," he told a televised news conference in the Syrian capital.


The Cairo-based League had given Damascus three days from a meeting on November 16 to abide by a deal to withdraw military forces from restive cities, start talks between the government and opposition and pave the way for an observer team.

It was not immediately clear what action the Arab League would take after the deadline passed unheeded by Damascus. The pan-Arab body had threatened sanctions for non-compliance, and it has already suspended Syria's membership.

"Although the time-frame has ended, there have been no meetings or calls for meetings except at the level of delegations (to the League)," a representative of one Arab state at the League told Reuters.

In a statement, the League said it remained committed to a peaceful, Arab-engineered solution to the Syrian upheaval, touched off by other Arab popular revolts that have overthrown the autocratic leaders of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya this year.

Syrian authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed armed groups which they say have killed some 1,100 troops and police. By a United Nations account, more than 3,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the unrest.

Assad signalled no retreat from his iron-fist policy in a video released after his forces killed 17 more protesters on Saturday.

"The only way is to search for the armed people, chase the armed gangs, prevent the entry of arms and weapons from neighbouring countries, prevent sabotage and enforce law and order," he said in footage published on the Sunday Times website.

Assad said there would be elections in February or March when Syrians would vote for a parliament to create a new constitution and that would include provision for a presidential ballot.

An opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said it envisaged a transitional period lasting up to one-and-a-half years if Assad was toppled.

But some prominent Assad opponents said more work was needed on uniting the opposition to bring about his downfall.


On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops manning roadblocks in Homs fired on residential areas and wounded three protesters.

In the nearby town of Talbiseh, government forces delivered the bodies of two men arrested last month and in Idlib another two civilians were killed in military operations, the British-based group said.

The Syrian Free Army, comprising army defectors and based in neighbouring Turkey, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Baath Party building in Damascus.

There was no independent verification of the claim and Moualem denied that any attack had taken place. But a witness said security police blocked off the square where the building was located and reported seeing smoke rising from it and fire trucks in the area.

"The attack was just before dawn and the building was mostly empty. It seems to have been intended as a message to the regime," said the witness, declining to be identified.

Syrian authorities have barred most independent journalists from entering the country during the revolt, making it difficult to verify accounts from activists and officials.

It was the second reported hit on a high-profile target in a week, underscoring a growing challenge to Assad - who blames "armed terrorist acts" for the unrest - from a nascent insurgency alongside mostly peaceful protests that have persisted despite the intensifying crackdown.

Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, is a member of the Alawite minority community, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that dominates the state, the army and security apparatus in the majority Sunni Muslim country of 20 million.

The Syrian Free Army said the attack was a response to the refusal of Damascus to release tens of thousands of political prisoners and return troops to barracks, as called for by the plan agreed between the Arab League and Damascus.

Non-Arab Turkey, once an ally of Assad, is also taking an increasingly tough attitude to Damascus.

Turkish newspapers said on Saturday Ankara had contingency plans to create no-fly or buffer zones to protect civilians in neighbouring Syria if the bloodshed worsens.

(Additional reporting by Erika Solomon in Beirut and Dina Zayed, Ayman Samir and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ralph Gowling)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Scouring the seas

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 11:02 PM PST

They are viewed as the most vicious killing machines in the animal kingdom, but sharks are like any other creature looking for survival.

IT must be a recurring nightmare for shark conservationists to repeatedly see shark movie after movie rolling out of Hollywood studios since the first and all-time most terrifying shark movie, Jaws, came out in 1975.

With every new fact uncovered on sharks not being man-eaters, the cause seems to have taken a step back with the likes of Shark Night, Deep Blue Sea, 12 Days Of Terror, Raging Shark ... movies that portray the fish as savage, senseless killing machines.

But Discovery Channel is bent on keeping the record straight, and with it being Shark Week this week, programmes such as Jaws Comes Home: Return Of The Great Whites, Summer Of The Shark 2, Rogue Sharks, How Sharks Hunt, Great White Triangle, Great White Invasion and Great White Christmas are set to debunk many of the baseless myths about sharks being ruthless man-eaters.

Dr Vic Peddemors, a senior scientist attached to the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre of Excellence, and who also heads the shark research programme at New South Wales Of Primary Industries in Australia, was on hand via a teleconference to debunk the misconceptions of one of the most evolved species in the animal kingdom.

He reckons sharks have had a bad name because of man's fascination for fierce creatures. "I think that we humans have an ingrained fear of any animal that can potentially eat us. It probably goes back to Neanderthal Man days when we had to protect the family from the sabre tooth tiger, and things like that. Of course, with sharks, it's not just animals that can eat us, it's that we can't see them, too, so that's an additional factor that comes into play," explains the South African, who also investigates shark attacks around the New South Wales region. This job includes determining the types of sharks involved in the attacks and their sizes.

Dealing with wild animals should always be a practice of applying common sense. Just like it's not advisable to walk into a lion's den, don't treat a shark like it's a domesticated animal. So, there's no need to fear them.

"The chances of somebody being bitten are very low. The most important thing obviously is not to be stupid about it. You need to look at the environment where you're planning to go into the water. If you see a lot of fish activity, it's probably not a good idea to get into the water because there's a good chance that there are sharks busy feeding around the fish.

"If you see birds diving on fish in the water, don't go swimming there. If it's very, very murky water and you can't see very far, particularly in the tropics, there's likely to be bull sharks in those waters. So don't go swimming in big river outflows or even inside the river where you can't see what's going on," Peddemors cautions.

Having said that, though, he reveals that the bull sharks living in the Sydney harbour have not harmed anyone.

If humans should be wary of any shark, three breeds in particular have had a bad track record – the Great White shark, the tiger shark and the bull shark, all of which operate in very different manners and locations.

Great Whites are coastal sharks that travel long distances in search of mammals like seals, dolphins and whales, hence, they thrive in cooler waters.

Bull sharks are more tropical in nature and can be found in the Zambezi River in Mozambique, Africa, which makes them tolerant to fresh water. They are also found in Australia and Asia.

The tiger shark is easily identified by the stripes on its body. These magnificent creatures have been behind many shark attacks in Hawaii and Hong Kong, though in Peddemor's experience, he sees them as fairly timid.

Timid or not, being in shark-infested waters is not a desirable proposition. Should someone find themselves in such an unenviable situation, Peddemor advises being calm and collected. He says that if you can see a shark, it's highly unlikely that it will come to bite you. And as crazy as it sounds, he advises swimming towards a shark if it approaches.

"It turns around and swims away ... because it doesn't know what you are. I've found that time and again. I know it's a strange thought to most people, but it definitely works. If nothing else, hit it on the nose. The nose of a shark is full of very, very sensitive organs. And so, if you bang it on its nose hard enough, it's probably going to turn around and leave you alone."

Sharks, like cockroaches and crocodiles, are one of the few creatures that have survived since the dinosaur age, and Peddemors attributes it to the animal's successful survival strategy.

"What we do know is that for a large number of sharks, if their food runs out, they can move on to other types of food. So, maybe it's that ability to adapt that has allowed them to survive this long. But obviously the ocean is far more stable an environment than land, so that will also have helped it over the years," he reveals.

Safe to say, human meat has yet to make it into the shark's menu. This puts the theory of rogue sharks – known to have a taste for human flesh – to rest once and for all.

"The concept that once they've tasted human blood, they then start feeding on humans – there's no evidence for that. They don't encounter humans often enough to take that as an option," Peddemors explains.

Ultimately, sharks have more to fear of humans because we eat them more than they eat us. Shark fin soup continues to be a delicacy in Oriental cuisine, and over-fishing is also bringing down the number of sharks globally.

Hopefully, with the series of documentaries lined up for Shark Week, these majestic and fascinating fishes will be better understood and appreciated for generations to come.

Catch Jaws Comes Home: Return Of The Great Whites (today), Summer Of The Shark 2 (Tuesday), Rogue Sharks (Wednesday), How Sharks Hunt (Thursday), Great White Triangle (Friday), Great White Invasion (Saturday) and Great White Christmas (Sunday), all of which screen at 10pm on Discovery Channel (Astro Ch 551).

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The Star Online: Business

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Bumi Armada’s net profit lower

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 06:27 PM PST

Published: Monday November 21, 2011 MYT 10:28:00 AM

PETALING JAYA: Oilfield services provider Bumi Armada's third quarter net profit was 7.49% lower at RM92.57 million compared to a year ago on revenue which jumped 22.80% to RM403.92 million.

The company's executive director cum chief executive officer Hassan Basma said in a press release that activity increased across all business segments.

on a year-to-date basis even though net profit was 1% lower compared to the same period a year ago mainly due to listing expenses.

He added that the third quarter was marked by commencement of production of the Vietnamese floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, Armada TGT 1, two major FPSO contracts and improved average utilisation rates for the group's offshore service vessels from 83% to 93%.

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Bluechips drag local bourse lower

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 05:46 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of bluechips came under pressure in early Monday morning trade dragging the local bourse's benchmark FBM KLCI lower at the open as markets in the region fell on news that US lawmakers may fail to meet a deadline to cut US$1.2 trillion in spending over 10 years.

Their first deadline would be today following which automatic across-the-board cuts would be incurred.

Analysts expect currrency markets to be volatile today. The ringgit was weaker against the US dollar at 3.176 and 4.292 versus the euro. Spot gold in electronic trade was US$10.03 lower at US$1,713.90 per ounce while Nymex crude oil dropped 34 cents to US$97.33 per barrel.

The FBM KLCI was down four fifths of a percent to 1,442.59 half-hour into trading with financial and plantation stocks leading the losses.

Singapore's Straits Times Index fell nearly 1% to 2,703.65 after reporting that the economy grew 6.1% in the third quarter from a year ago.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.50% to 18,213.72, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was a fifth of a percent lower at 8,358.25, Shanghai's A share index was marginally higher and Seoul's Kospi Index shed 1.29% to 1,815.46.

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How do we practise the spirit of giving?

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 05:18 PM PST

A FRIEND'S house was broken into recently. Fortunately, she was not in at the time and there was not much that the burglars found worthwhile to take away.

But in looking through the ransacked house, she came across a dress she had kept for a very special occasion.

And she was surprised that the moths had got to it even though she had carefully packed it away in her closet.

It reminded her that many of the treasures we lay up here on earth can indeed be destroyed by moth and rust even if the thieves do not get to them first.

All of us struggle with the things we have and whether they fall under the category of needs or wants.

I am quite sure my DVD collection and my recently purchased iPad2 hover dangerously in the "want" segment even if I tell myself that my overall needs in life are basic and simple.

The problem with accumulating things is that we never know where they end up eventually.

Like my friend who found her dress eaten up by moths, I wonder how many of us have shoes where the leather is so stiff that they are of no use even if they are given away.

Some years back, when a dear friend was setting up an orphanage, we appealed for donations in cash and kind.

I was driving a van at the time so I volunteered to pick up all the stuff which people generously wanted to give away.

But the bulk of what was being given to us ended up in the rubbish dump instead. From clothes to furniture to electrical accessories, they were simply discarded items that the owners no longer wanted.

If we want to give, should we not give away things that are in good condition and still usable?

These days, we see recycling bins around our neighbourhoods and I am quite sure many treat these facilities as rubbish dumps.

The problem of having to get rid of things will not be so severe if we do not have so many things accumulated in the first place.

So how do we practise the spirit of real giving?

A report released by UBS-Insead has revealed that Asia's wealthy engage in philanthropy primarily to ensure the continuity of core family values and to create a lasting legacy in areas such as health and education.

However, among younger and second-generation philanthropists, a "giving while living" approach is also evident, characterised both by increased support for the arts and the environment and a global mindset.

Whether we are super rich or just ordinary wage earners, I believe the concept of giving while living is a good one.

As another dear friend puts it, "Don't send me flowers when I can no longer smell them."

The true spirit of giving is not about the amount but what moves the heart to let go, be it our possessions, our talent or our time.

So isn't it time we look at what we have accumulated all these years and see if they can be passed on to make a difference even in a single life? But please make sure they are good stuff and still in excellent working condition.

  • Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is amused that a group of 140 millionaires in the United States calling themselves "Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength" appeared before Congress last week asking to be taxed more for the sake of the nation.

    Related Story:
    Survey: Younger generation donating to social and environment causes

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    The Star Online: Sports

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    Stewart crowned NASCAR champion with Homestead win

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 05:09 PM PST

    Published: Monday November 21, 2011 MYT 9:10:00 AM

    HOMESTEAD (Florida): Tony Stewart was crowned NASCAR's champion - on a tiebreak - on Sunday after a magnificent drive won the Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday from rival Carl Edwards.

    The victory for Stewart meant the pair finished level on points for the season but Stewart wins the Sprint Cup thanks to winning more races (5-0) in the season-ending Chase playoffs.

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    Federer and Nadal pushed all the way at Tour finals

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 05:08 PM PST

    LONDON: A sickly Rafa Nadal was pushed to the limit by Mardy Fish in his opening match at the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday before joining great rival and defending champion Roger Federer at the top of Group B.

    The Spaniard, playing his first competitive match after a month long lay-off, needed nearly three hours and a rush to the toilet because of a "terrible stomach" to subdue the American tournament debutant, winning a late-night thriller 6-2 3-6 7-6.

    Federer began the season-ending championships, being held in London's dazzling O2 Arena for the third of five years, with victory over French powerhouse Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, although he was also given a scare in a 6-2 2-6 6-4 victory which raced by in 88 minutes of high-octane hitting.

    After ripping through the first set in 21 minutes, world number four Federer, bidding for a record sixth title at the ATP's blue riband tournament in his 10th appearance, lost his way and Tsonga threatened a repeat of his victory over the Swiss maestro in this year's Wimbledon quarter-finals.

    On that occasion Tsonga floored 16-times grand slam champion Federer from two sets to love down but this time he could not complete his fightback, cracking in the 10th game of the decider to Federer's obvious relief.

    Serving to stay in the match Tsonga fluffed a routine volley, then served a double fault before Federer whipped a forehand winner to set up three match points.

    Tsonga saved the first but then Federer benefited from a miss-hit return which dragged his opponent out of position and allowed him to fire a match-winning backhand.

    "It's not always in your control when you play Jo," world number four Federer, who had former France soccer international Thierry Henry in his support box, told reporters.

    "Today I had flashes of that (Wimbledon) match because I didn't have much chance for a while on his serve.

    "Once he got the upper hand in the second set he started to swing more freely and got really dangerous. I just tried to stay calm and wait for my chance.

    "We saw some ups and downs from both players, that's why I'm pretty happy to come through."

    While Federer got a bit lucky when Tsonga capitulated at the death, Nadal had to rely on his endless reserves of fighting spirit to scrape past Fish.

    "The third set was a bit crazy," the 25-year-old told reporters. "I felt very bad from the stomach since the beginning of the third. I was seriously really lucky for the victory." Asked what the problem was, Nadal said it was a mystery.

    "I ate pasta and salmon at the hotel before the match, nothing strange, nothing unusual," said Nadal who will face Federer in their eagerly-anticipated Group B match on Tuesday. "I am worried about getting better for practise tomorrow."

    Fish, the only one of the eight-man field never to have played in the season-ender, made a slow start, dropping his opening service game to hand Nadal the initiative.

    Nadal sealed the opening set in 34 minutes in front of a 17,500 capacity crowd watching on in the dimly lit arena but, just like Federer earlier, he was rocked by an opponent playing some electrifying tennis.

    Fish, who cracked the world's top 10 for the first time this year, let rip with some punishing forehands and displayed some exquisite touches at the net as he outplayed the 10-times major winner in the second set.

    He squandered four set points at 2-5 on the Nadal serve but a clinical serve and volley in the next game set up a decider.

    Nadal appeared to have regained control when he moved 2-0 ahead in the decider but suddenly left the arena for a toilet break, leaving Fish standing alone with his thoughts for two minutes despite it not being a changeover.

    While there were a few slow hand claps from the crowd, Fish was not disputing Nadal's call of nature.

    "I just assumed that he wasn't feeling well. We've all been there," the 29-year-old said. "I didn't think he was trying to ice me or anything. I have a ton of respect for him."

    The match swung in Fish's favour when Nadal returned as the Californian reeled off the next three games before he blew his advantage by losing serve to love.

    Perspiring heavily, Nadal was stretched again in the next game, surviving a break point when the attack-minded Fish wafted a forehand long.

    Fish, who racked up 35 winners during a thrilling contest, saved two match points at 4-5 but after taking the match into a tiebreak he faltered.

    Nadal moved 4-1 ahead and when another three match points arrived he made no mistake, sealing victory when a leaping Fish netted a high backhand volley.

    World number one Novak Djokovic begins on Monday with a Group A clash against Czech Tomas Berdych after home favourite Andy Murray takes on Spain's David Ferrer.

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    Nadal edges Fish in thriller match

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 04:00 PM PST

    LONDON: Rafa Nadal opened his account at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-2 3-6 7-6 defeat of American Mardy Fish in a late-night Group B thriller at the O2 on Sunday.

    The world number two was stretched to the limit by Fish who produced some dazzling tennis in his first match at the season-ender having cracked the world's top 10 this year.

    Nadal took advantage of a slow start by his opponent to dominate the first set but the 29-year-old Fish responded by winning the second on his fifth set point with one of many sumptuous volleys he produced in the near three-hour duel.

    Nadal, who had not played a competitive match for a month leading into the Finals, moved 2-0 ahead in the decider but after he rushed off court for a toilet break Fish reeled off the next three games when he returned.

    The Spaniard broke back and had two match points at 5-6 on the Fish serve, failing to convert either chance.

    Perspiring heavily on the quick indoor surface, Nadal moved 4-1 ahead in the tiebreak and when three more match points arrived he made no mistake, sealing victory when the leaping Fish netted a high volley.

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    The Star Online: Nation

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    Rallying BN cyber troops

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 03:17 PM PST

    KUALA LUMPUR: Bring out your iPads, iPhones, Blackberries, tablets and laptops!

    "These are your weapons as cyber warriors," Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told a crowd of social media practitioners who responded to his call with an enthusiastic applause.

    The Prime Minister, who is also Barisan Nasional chief, drove home this message before a crowd of 2,000 when addressing the 1Malaysia Social Media Convention at the Putra World Trade Centre here yesterday.

    At the first-ever such convention, Najib gave pro-Barisan social media writers "official recognition" by calling them the new army for the party in the virtual world.

    "So, this is your role as cyber warriors. Our social media army can turun padang, but not by rolling up your sleeves and trouser legs," he said. Also called the 1Malaysia Social Media Volunteers or myVO1CE the voluntary social media practitioners will explain and defend government policies online.

    Najib said the time had come for a re-look into Barisan's methods of disseminating information to the public.

    "Social media will enable us to engage with the public directly.

    "In the past, getting information across to the people on the ground meant going to an open field and asking the Information Department to set up stage and microphones," he said, urging the social media practitioners to write frequently and be united in the face of an Opposition that works to only confuse and mislead the public.

    "It is up to you to set the record straight," said Najib, adding that he was also attacked when allegations surfaced that his daughter had gone on a spending spree in Perth.

    The Prime Minister, an avid social media follower with a constant presence on Twitter, said it was also through social media that he delivered his Aidiladha greetings while on his haj pilgrimage in Mecca, thousands of miles from home.

    Speaking at the BN Youth Job Fair earlier yesterday, Najib said he was confident that the Government could achieve the 5% to 6% gross domestic product growth target through the Economic Transfor-mation Programme.

    Bank Negara had announced that the country recorded a 5.8% growth for the third quarter of the year.

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    EC deputy chairman berates Selangor and Penang Govts over separate polls call

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 03:09 PM PST

    PUTRAJAYA: Holding state polls separately from the general election will be an unnecessary waste of money, time and effort.

    Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said this was because all the preparations needed to run polls had to be carried out twice.

    "For instance, we have to train and pay workers who help us run the polls and print ballot papers, twice.

    "On top of that, we will also need to use schools for polling purposes," he added.

    Wan Ahmad agreed to DAP chairman Karpal Singh's remarks that it was better for state and general elections to be held simultaneously to avoid wasting public funds.

    "What Karpal said is correct," Wan Ahmad said.

    "If elections are done separately, it will not only waste taxpayers' money.

    "It is also a waste of time and energy because we also need workers to man voting stations and policemen to maintain public order."

    He said a long campaigning period would not be beneficial to the country.

    "It is better if politicians concentrated on fulfilling their election promises right after the polls than continue campaigning for separate state elections," he added.

    "The 2008 general election cost RM200mil.

    "This time around, we expect the cost to increase as the voter population has increased," said Wan Ahmad.

    He also said that the Sarawak state election in April had cost RM40mil.

    "From my point of view, politicians should not think of elections from a political perspective only," Wan Ahmad said.

    "They should also think of the implications of separate elections and whether the rakyat will benefit from them too."

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    Karpal extends Pakatan invitation to parties unhappy with BN

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 03:06 PM PST

    TAMIL Nesan reported that DAP national chairman Karpal Singh was urging political parties who were unhappy with Barisan Nasional (Barisan) to join Pakatan Rakyat officially.

    He said Parti Sosialis Malaysia, Human Rights Party and Parti Rakyat Malaysia should join Pakatan unconditionally.

    He said the 13th General Election presented a great chance for Malaysians to oust Barisan from federal power for the first time since the country achieved independence.

    Karpal, who is Bukit Gelugor MP, said the Pakatan leadership would give all unconditional applications its due consideration.

    He said any conditional application, especially those demanding seats, would not be entertained because it would put all anti-Barisan parties in a "no-win situation".

    >Malaysia Nanban reported that police in New Delhi had arrested a 24-year-old man on Friday for abducting and beating a teenager because she refused his advances.

    Police said Vikram Singh Rawat dragged his 19-year-old neighbour into a car, where he tried to convince her to accept his proposal as his friend drove the vehicle for over two hours.

    When the girl refused his overtures, Rawat assaulted her and dumped her near her home.

    Other News & Views is compiled from the vernacular newspapers (Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil dailies). As such, stories are grouped according to the respective language/medium. Where a paragraph begins with a >, it denotes a separate news item.

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    The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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    Sister: Yasmin made movies to cheer parents up

    Posted: 19 Nov 2011 06:42 PM PST

    KUALA LUMPUR: The late Yasmin Ahmad made films to make her parents happy, her sister said.

    "She made Rabun to cheer our dad when he had acute diabetes in 2002.

    "Later, when mum had to undergo surgery to treat her enlarged heart, Yasmin made Sepet to make her happy," said Datin Orked Ahmad, when accepting an award for the film Muallaf on behalf of her late sister at the 1Malaysia Cultural Award at the KL Convention Centre here yesterday.

    It was the filmmaker's last movie to be screened before she died from brain haemorrhage in 2009. She was 51.

    A tearful Orked added: "Our parents were supposed to come today, but this morning mum broke down and couldn't bring herself to attend the ceremony."

    Organisers of the MCA-initiated awards, the first of its kind to recognise Malaysian artistes in promoting racial unity through their works, received 28 entries for the Chinese category and five entries under the non-Chinese category.

    Music professor Prof Shen Ping Kwang took home the top award for his musical ensemble Proudly We Sing Our Songs - I Love Malaysia in the Chinese category.

    The 91-year-old from Sabah thanked his conductor for sending in his work to compete for the award.

    The winners received RM50,000 each while two nominees from each category, chosen by a panel of nine judges, received RM1,000 and a certificate each. MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek presented the awards.

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    The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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    The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

    Something for everyone

    Posted: 20 Nov 2011 01:39 AM PST

    The smart shirt takes centre stage, whether paired with a pair of jeans or a long panel skirt.

    IF you think that a simple long-sleeved shirt is just another regular shirt, a local brand will make you see otherwise.

    According to Helen Read, the founder of Ms Read, when they started on the "My Everyday Shirt" collection, they realised that it wasn't easy to find that perfect crisp shirt. What might work for one body shape might not work for another, and we come in all shapes and sizes.

    Ms Read is a homegrown plus-sized fashion brand catering to women from sizes 12 to 24. It offers an extensive range of apparel, from casual, work to evening and even swimwear.

    Alongside Ms Read's Fall 2011 collection, they've introduced a new collection of shirts under "My Everyday Shirt".

    This collection, which comes in six styles, has been added as a permanent line to the brand and each style comes in white, solid colours and stripes.

    Each design offers a different fit with attention to diverse body shapes and plays with darts, hems, collar lengths and even pleated details.

    Named after much admired women, you get Rania (Queen of Jordan), Jackie (Kennedy), Marilyn (Monroe), Sharon (Stone), Kate (Middleton) and Helen, after the brand's founder.

    In its Fall 2011 catalogue, one of Ms Read's customers, Primila Ganesh wears a white shirt with pearls tucked into a long six panel black skirt, which gives her an amazingly svelte look that is not only slimming but classy as evening wear.

    What's great is one can keep it simple and chic by pairing it with an equally crisp pair of jeans or give it a formal look with a smart pencil skirt or dressy pants.

    In the brand's main line for Fall 2011, autumnal colours of teal, navy blue and russet brown are paired with neutrals giving the work, weekend and After-5 collection a warm, earthy vibe.

    Pieces that stand out include a blouse in animal prints with asymmetrical hemlines worn over jeans or leggings, allowing a larger sized woman to feel and look as good.

    Also, horizontal stripes for a larger sized person has never been popular but this collection offers a horizontal striped blouse with clever contrasting stripes, along the sleeves, to help larger arms look slimmer.

    For its Fall After 5 range and evening wear, the tones are deeper and more dramatic. Shades include mulled berries, navy blue, regal purple, pumpkin orange and black.

    Necklines are embellished with beads and appliqué flowers, while a sparkly skirt will be just what you need when you're in a celebratory mood.

    With the holiday season around the corner the brand celebrates the silhouette of the season – the hourglass figure.

    The holiday collection offers you plenty of chances to show off your curves in body-hugging dresses or blouses with a twist in detailing, from pretty purples, solid black to playful stripes.

    The After 5 Holiday collection will get you feeling festive with its range of tops in brocade gold, black and white and a chiffon top embellished with pearls and ruffles.

    Prices range from RM99 to RM359. Available at all Ms Read stores.

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    The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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    Are you short of breath?

    Posted: 19 Nov 2011 04:36 PM PST

    COPD is greatly underdiagnosed, with recent studies indicating that 25% to 50% of people with clinically significant COPD don't know they have the disease.

    SHORTNESS of breath (dyspnoea) is difficult or laboured breathing, which feels like you cannot get enough air.

    One common cause of shortness of breath is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which refers to a group of lung diseases that cause damage to your lungs and makes it difficult for you to breathe.

    Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes or dust, also may contribute to COPD.

    Secondary smoke (exposure to people who smoke) is also a risk factor.


    According to the World Health Organization, COPD is most common in countries where cigarette smoking is very widespread.

    It afflicts some 50 million people around the world, and kills nearly three million every year.

    COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide and is greatly under-diagnosed, with recent studies indicating that 25% to 50% of people with clinically significant COPD don't know they have the disease.

    In Malaysia, respiratory illness is the primary cause of visits to health clinics and outpatient hospital clinics. The burden of COPD in males is almost three times that of females.

    Chronic respiratory disease, including COPD, in Malaysia is ranked fifth among the leading cause of disease burden.

    The two most common conditions of COPD are:

    ·Chronic bronchitis: The inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes which carry air to and from your lungs. Acute bronchitis is very common and develops from a cold or other respiratory infection.

    Chronic bronchitis caused by smoking is due to the constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.

    Acute bronchitis usually improves within a few days; however, repeated bouts of bronchitis may be suggestive of chronic bronchitis and will require medical attention.

    ·Emphysema: The tiny air sacs in the lungs are gradually destroyed and there is progressive shortness of breath. Smoking is the leading cause of emphysema.

    Are smokers with COPD more likely to develop pneumonia? Yes! Smoking increases mucous production and impairs the clearing action in the airway.

    Bacteria and inflammatory and damaged lung cells accumulate, making the secretions thick and difficult to clear. The stagnant mucous causes bacteria to flourish and cause infection of the lung (pneumonia).

    Furthermore, even the inflammatory cells are damaged by tobacco smoke, so their ability to fight infections is diminished and there is limitation in the oxygen-carbon dioxide diffusion.

    Pneumonia is often also more severe in smokers with COPD than in non-smokers without COPD.

    Symptoms of COPD do not appear until significant lung damage has occurred. People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called an exacerbation, which is an increase in the severity of the disease.

    Red flags to watch out for include:

    ·Chronic cough (often the first symptom of COPD), and later, with chronic sputum production.


    ·Tightness of the chest.

    ·Shortness of breath (dyspnoea) is the hallmark symptom of COPD.

    COPD and asthma have similar symptoms of coughing and wheezing, but differ in that the onset of asthma typically occurs during childhood or adolescence, while COPD often develops in smokers and former smokers who are in their mid-40s.

    Exacerbations of asthma often have identifiable triggers such as allergens, cold air or exercise. Exacerbations of COPD are commonly caused by infections. With treatment, asthma patients can be symptom-free between exacerbations. COPD patients rarely experience a day without symptoms.

    How a doctor decides to manage a patient's COPD is based on spirometry results, severity of dyspnoea and disability, which can be assessed using the Modified Medical Research Council (MMRC) dyspnoea scale.

    Spirometry is the most common and important lung function test in diagnosing COPD and its stage. You'll be asked to blow into a large tube connected to a spirometer. This measures how much air your lungs can hold and how fast you can blow the air out of your lungs.

    Spirometry can detect COPD even before you have symptoms of the disease. There are four stages of COPD, ranging from mild (stage 1) to very severe (stage 4).

    Mild COPD is when there is shortness of breath when hurrying on level ground or walking up a slight hill, progressing to severe COPD where the person gets breathless just getting dressed.

    A COPD patient is in stage 4 when there are signs of respiratory failure. Such patients are usually bed-bound.


    There's no cure for COPD, and you can't undo the damage to your lungs. But COPD treatments can control symptoms, reduce your risk of complications and exacerbations, and improve your ability to lead an active life.

    Bronchodilators are drugs that can open the airways, usually administered via an inhaler.

    Bronchodilators include beta agonists and can be either short-acting (salbutamol) or long-acting (salmeterol).

    Anti-cholinergics such as iptratroprium bromide, which have good bronchodilator effects, can also be added.

    Occasionally, theophylline is used if the patient's symptoms are not controlled with the usual bronchodilators.

    A broad-spectrum antibiotic acts against a wide range of disease-causing bacteria and should be given to COPD patients with acute exacerbations who have at least two out of three cardinal symptoms, which are yellow-green phlegm, increased phlegm volume and/or increased dyspnoea

    Antibiotic treatment can be effective for such cases and is directed at the common causative bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis.

    Initial outpatient treatment may include orally administered antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin-clavulanate potassium or moxifloxacin.

    Patients who are older than 65 years of age or have more frequent exacerbations (four or more episodes per year), and have had several antibiotic treatments in a short span of time may need an augmented penicillin such as amoxicillin-clavulanate potassium or respiratory quinolone such as moxifloxacin.

    Oral moxifloxacin for the treatment of exacerbated COPD with once-daily dosing and is as effective as its intravenous form.

    Effective initial antibiotic treatment of exacerbations may be able to prevent admission to hospital, or at the very least, shorten the stay in hospital if admission is necessary.

    In some cases, the selection of the correct antibiotic together with adequate supportive care can prevent death in a COPD patient experiencing an exacerbation

    The management of chronic stable COPD always includes smoking cessation and oxygen therapy.

    Inhaled beta 2 agonists, inhaled anticholinergics, and systemic corticosteroids provide short-term benefits in patients with chronic stable disease. Inhaled corticosteroids reduce airway inflammation and will help you breathe better.

    Preventing acute exacerbations helps to reduce long-term complications. Long-term oxygen therapy, regular monitoring of pulmonary function and referral for pulmonary rehabilitation are often indicated.

    Get your influenza and pneumococcal vaccination, exercise regularly, eat healthy and avoid smoke, crowds and cold air. Patients who do not respond to standard therapies may benefit from surgery.

    If you find yourself often short of breath, ask yourself if you may have COPD. Ask your doctor about a simple breathing test called spirometry. This simple test may safeguard your lung health.

    Further to that, if you smoke, quit now. The power is in your hands.

    > This article is contributed by Dr Kalpana Nayar, medical advisor with Bayer HealthCare. This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be taken in place of a consultation with your doctor. Bayer HealthCare disclaims any and all liability for injury or other damages that could result from use of the information obtained from this article.

    Related story
    Preventing exacerbations

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    Controlling cholesterol

    Posted: 19 Nov 2011 03:50 PM PST

    Looking at nutritional alternatives in cholesterol control.

    WE already know from the third National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS III 2006) that five years ago, about 43% of adult Malaysians (30 years and above) were overweight (29%) or obese (14%); 43% had hypertension; and 15% had diabetes.

    Since Malaysians continue to lead unhealthy lifestyles and indulge in high-calorie unhealthy foods, the situation is definitely worse now.

    If we concentrate only on those 40 and above, then the figures will be more worrying; and figures for those 50 and above will be really alarming, because the survey figures were somewhat "diluted" by the relatively healthy 30-39 age group.

    I hope that in the future, the Government will release figures that will indicate these differences so that we realise that the problem is bigger than what the NHMS seems to show.

    However, the survey on younger Malaysians should continue because unhealthy trends begin in childhood and continue through adult life, resulting in early onset of non-communicable diseases (or chronic lifestyle diseases as I prefer to call them) like obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

    A survey involving 10,000 students showed that 24% of those aged between six and 12 were either overweight or obese. Another survey showed that about 38% of youngsters between 12 and 18 were overweight.

    Most adults have high cholesterol

    It is not surprising that we doctors see so many patients who have dyslipidaemia (abnormal lipid/fat levels – particularly high total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol; high triglycerides; and low HDL-cholesterol). And many of these patients are on cholesterol-lowering drugs, which are mainly statin drugs.

    I estimate that over 50% of the patients above 50 years have high total and "bad"/LDL-cholesterol levels, and most of them have been prescribed statins by their doctors.

    While diet is a factor in raising our cholesterol levels, it must be remembered that it contributes only 10-15% to the total cholesterol. The bulk of it is what is produced by our liver, and this is influenced by our general health, many hormones (especially the metabolic and sex hormones), exercise, and fitness.

    So if you are not healthy, your cholesterol levels may be abnormal even if you are not overweight and do not consume much animal products.

    Children with high cholesterol

    More worrying is the increasing prevalence of abnormal lipid levels in children and young adults.

    Recently, the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommended that all children be screened for high cholesterol at least once between the ages of nine and 11 years, and again between ages 17 and 21 years. This is because 30-60% of children already have high cholesterol levels!

    This correlates with the rising incidence of obesity and atherosclerosis (which causes heart attacks and stroke) in children and young adults in the last two decades.

    Since Malaysian children are also living similar "Western" lifestyles, eating similar unhealthy junk food and getting fat/obese, we should also consider this so that we can monitor and advice those children and young adults who are at risk much earlier, and help them avoid getting heart disease or stroke later in their lives.

    Statin therapy

    While there is no doubt that many studies have shown the benefits of normalising lipid levels (to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke and peripheral arterial disease), my concern is that most patients are put on the statin drugs without recourse to basic and safer alternatives first.

    The statin drugs are known to have side effects, the most common of which are myopathy (many patients complain of muscle cramps) and liver stress (many patients have high levels of liver enzymes).

    The first and most important step is always a reversion to a healthy lifestyle and diet, maintaining an ideal weight, and doing sufficient exercise. In addition, I would prescribe nutritional therapies.

    To be fair to the doctors, the problem is that most patients are not disciplined and committed to adopt the lifestyle/diet/exercise that would enable them to achieve their ideal weights and normalise their cholesterol levels.

    However, it is my observation (especially feedback from the patients who come to me for nutritional therapy advice) that our doctors are too quick in prescribing the statin drugs without considering the alternatives. So I end up "weaning off" these patients who come to me from statin drugs to nutritional alternatives.

    Here are some nutritional therapies that have been proven to reduce bad cholesterol. Some may even raise the good HDL-cholesterol.

    Soluble fibre

    Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Animal products are the sources of cholesterol in our diet, but plant products that contain much saturated fat can also cause the blood cholesterol level to rise.

    You will need at least 5g of soluble fibre a day to decrease your total and LDL-cholesterol. The more you ingest, the better the results. We all know through the local campaigns that oatmeal is effective in lowering cholesterol. That is because one bowl of oatmeal or oat bran provides more than 5g of soluble fibre, and therefore, daily consumption can reduce and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

    Other sources of soluble fibre include apples, bananas, barley, kidney beans, pears and prunes.

    Omega-3 essential fatty acids

    Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce total and bad cholesterol, triglycerides, as well as raise good cholesterol. They also reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases (eg hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and arthritis).

    They are important for cognitive functions (eg memory). Deficiency may cause fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems and mood swings. Developing foetuses, babies and children need enough omega-3 fatty acids for healthy nerve, eye and brain development.

    Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in deep-sea fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, herring, sardines and halibut; other seafood including algae and krill; some plants; and nut oils.

    It is recommended that we eat omega-3 rich fish at least twice a week, but there is also concern that most of the fish are now contaminated by heavy metals, which can cause toxicity problems and increase cancer risk.

    So in order to get higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids to lower cholesterol (or for other benefits) without having the risk of contamination, it is better to rely on omega-3 supplements for therapy. I use purified molecular-distilled omega-3, which are guaranteed to be free of contaminants.

    Tocotrienols (super vitamin E)

    We are the world's leading producer and exporter of tocotrienols – the family of vitamin E that are far superior in many aspects compared to the more widely available form of vitamin E (tocopherols).

    Our palm oil is the richest commercial source of tocotrienols, while the common vitamin E supplements (alpha-tocopherol) is extracted from soy.

    Clinical research has shown that tocotrienols can reduce total and LDL-cholesterol, dissolve existing cholesterol plaques while also having brain-protective and skin-protective effects against ageing. Tocotrienols may also be helpful against some forms of cancer.

    Combined therapy

    There are other nutritional therapies which have been shown to be effective, though not necessarily having as much evidence as the above methods (eg red yeast rice, guggul lipids, berry extracts, mangosteen extracts, etc).

    When any of the above nutritional therapies fail, I combine two or more methods until I achieve the desired results. In fact, the patients benefit from the multiple health-enhancing effects of the nutrients.

    > Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. 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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    Fat reconstruction

    Posted: 19 Nov 2011 03:49 PM PST

    Studies show that stem cells from fat tissue demonstrate early success in reconstructive surgery.

    STEM cells derived from human fat tissue were recently reported to demonstrate early success in reconstructive surgeries in over 30 patients in Japan who underwent facial and breast procedures.

    Innovative treatment

    The results from an investigator-initiated study by Dr Kotaro Yoshimura of Tokyo University in Japan were presented at the 4th annual meeting for the International Fat Applied Technology Society that took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, US.

    Dr Yoshimura performed an innovative stem cell treatment on 39 patients who underwent procedures ranging from repair of congenital facial and breast defects, and aesthetic enhancements to breast reconstruction following partial mastectomy.

    The procedure is similar to a conventional lipo-injection. Dr Yoshimura's team lipo-suctioned fat from patients, concentrated stem cells found in the fat, then injected the fat and stem cells into the areas of damaged tissue. Each patient received his or her own fat and stem cells.

    Until now, doctors have injected fat into damaged tissue to give physical or mechanical support. However, eventual loss of that fat, called atrophy, is a common occurrence in patients who have had injected fat therapy.

    Dr Yoshimura observed minimal atrophy in his patients, and believes the stem cells were key to keeping the fat healthy and allowing it to rejuvenate.

    Stem cells derived from fat tissue appear to act through the promotion of blood vessels as a way to increase the survival of the transplanted tissue, as well as continuing tissue turnover after transplantation by forming new fat cells, helping to preserve tissue volume, stated Dr Yoshimura.

    These are early findings for which more research is required prior to making such a treatment broadly available. However, these clinical results demonstrate the potential for stem cells derived from fat tissue.

    Dr Yoshimura also said that 70% of all complications arising from cosmetic surgery are linked to the use of artificial materials. Stem cell enriched-fat, therefore, holds the promise of eliminating such complications.

    Stem cells from adipose tissue (fat) is a rich source of stem cells, as well as other cell types that contribute to the natural healing process in humans. Referred to by the medical community as adipose-derived stem cells, researchers have "prompted" such cells to convert to fat, bone, cartilage and muscle, and believe these cells could help treat heart conditions, heal broken bones, and even be used in reconstructive surgery.

    According to Dr Jeffrey Gimble of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, fat is considered to be much more than just those extra pounds we carry around. Unlocking the potential of stem cells found in fat tissue is just the beginning.

    Additional applications

    A separate research team, led by Dr Lorenza Lazzari, also released work that supports the thought that fat stem cells within transplanted fat can improve lipo-injection therapy.

    Dr Lazzari's team extracted fat from the abdomens and thighs (lipo-suction) of 12 patients, and then injected the fat into the patient's vocal folds. This therapy is used following damage due to disease or anatomical defect. Until now, the team believed the injected fat offered only mechanical or structural support of the vocal folds.

    Prior to injection, however, the team also sampled the fat for laboratory analysis.

    Dr Lazzari's team found that this procedure gave vocal abilities and normal speech to their patients for the long-term – one to two years, so far. The injected fat remained healthy and demonstrated rejuvenation.

    To determine why, the team analysed the fat tissue used for injection and found the presence of stem cells.

    Dr Lazzari believes that adult stem cells (ASCs) residing naturally in fat tissue may enhance the rejuvenation of damaged vocal folds.

    Sample analysis indicated that ASCs in fat samples were present and able to differentiate into various cell types, and may act as a source to provide regenerative abilities in vocal fold tissue.

    Local scenario

    Aesthetic physician and cosmetic surgeon Dr Alice Prethima Michael says this technology can be used for skin rejuvenation and anti-ageing therapy through the CHA-Station™ procedure.

    With CHA-Station™, undesired fat is aspirated from another part of the body and infused with stem cells, then injected into body parts such as the breasts, buttocks or even the hollow contours of the face.

    "I'm a firm believer in educating patients and the general public about the latest medical treatments and technologies," says Dr Alice. "Introducing the CHA-Station™ to the public is part of my mission to educate them on this safer and longer lasting option to aesthetic enhancement."

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