Isnin, 28 November 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Gangs from Africa, Iran muscle in on South East Asia drugs -U.N.

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 06:53 PM PST

BANGKOK (Reuters) - International drug gangs from Africa and Iran are muscling in on Southeast Asia's booming methamphetamine business which has shown a staggering increase and is spreading through the region, the United Nations said in a report on Tuesday.

Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), including amphetamine and methamphetamine, have become the drugs of choice in many parts of Southeast and East Asia since the 1990s, replacing plant-based drugs such as heroin, opium and cannabis, the U.N. drugs office said.

The stimulants can be easily made anywhere from a variety of materials and precursor chemicals and bring huge profits for little investment, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said.

Increasing use of the drugs was reported from most countries in the region in 2010, the office said, while the illicit making of the drugs was thriving despite the seizure of 442 manufacturing facilities and nearly 136 million "speed" pills.

African crime gangs which used to deal in cocaine and heroin

had diversified into ATS trafficking while gangs from Iran had been identified as a significant drug-trafficking threat in the region, it said.

"African groups are involved in trafficking crystalline methamphetamine, ecstasy and heroin into Indonesia, and have used Cambodia as a centre for financial transactions and for the distribution of illicit drugs to Indonesia," the U.N. office said in a report.

"In Japan, the proportion of seized methamphetamine that was trafficked into the country from Africa increased 7.4 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in the first half of 2010."

In Malaysia, the number of African couriers arrested almost doubled in 2010 to 65, including 50 Nigerians, it said.

"To avoid detection, African drug trafficking organisations have diversified their methods by using couriers from countries in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia and by diversifying their trafficking routes."

Iranian gangs were also getting involved.


Malaysian authorities arrested 228 Iranian couriers in 2009-10 for smuggling methamphetamine while Japan reported the arrests of 135 of them in the same period.

Other countries reporting the arrest of Iranians included Thailand, where authorities nabbed 75 in 2010 compared with 12 in 2009, and Indonesia with 27 arrests in 2010.

"There are also indications that Iranian drug organisations have attempted to establish illicit ATS manufacturing operations in Malaysia and Thailand," the office said.

Seizures of methamphetamine pills shot up for the second year in 2010 to nearly 136 million from 94 million, the previous year, a 44 percent increase. China, with 58.4 million pills seized, Thailand and Laos accounted for 98 percent of the busts.

"The staggering increase in seizures reflects burgeoning production," the office said.

But Myanmar, where most pills are manufactured, by former rebels who struck ceasefires with the government, reported the seizure of only 2.2 million pills in 2010, or just less than a tenth of the 23.9 million seized the previous year.

"This may reflect that traffickers are deliberately avoiding trafficking methamphetamine directly to Thailand along the overland route and instead smuggling larger amounts out of the country through Laos and along the Mekong river into Thailand," it said.

In what could be a grisly illustration of that shift, 13 Chinese sailors were murdered on the Mekong river, near the Thai-Myanmar border in October. Thai officials have suggested methamphetamine smuggling was behind the killings.

Laos saw a 10-fold increase in methamphetamine pill seizures in 2010 and was vulnerable to the drug gangs.

"Its remote and sparsely populated mountainous borderlands make it vulnerable to displacement of manufacturing facilities from Myanmar."

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Pakistan PM: No more "business as usual" with U.S.

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 06:35 PM PST

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's prime minister ruled out "business as usual" with the United States on Monday after a NATO attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the army threatened to curtail cooperation over the war in Afghanistan.

A man walks past an armed paramilitary soldier guarding the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing in Chaman November 28, 2011. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

Saturday's incident on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has complicated U.S. attempts to ease a crisis in relations with Islamabad and stabilise the region before foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan.

"Business as usual will not be there," Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told CNN when asked if ties with the United States would continue. "We have to have something bigger so as to satisfy my nation."

While the NATO strike has shifted attention from what critics say is Islamabad's failure to go after militants, Gilani's comments reflect the fury of Pakistan's government and military - and the pressure they face from their own people.

"You cannot win any war without the support of the masses," Gilani said. "We need the people with us."

The relationship, he said, would continue only if based on "mutual respect and mutual interest." Asked if Pakistan was receiving that respect, Gilani replied: "At the moment, not."

Gilani's comments cap a day of growing pressure from the Pakistani military, which threatened to reduce cooperation on peace efforts in Afghanistan.

"This could have serious consequences in the level and extent of our cooperation," military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Reuters.

Pakistan has a long history of ties to militant groups in Afghanistan so it is uniquely positioned to help bring about a peace settlement, a top foreign policy and security goal for the Obama administration.

Washington believes Islamabad can play a critical role in efforts to pacify Afghanistan before all NATO combat troops pull out in 2014 and it cannot afford to alienate its ally.

U.S. national security officials met at the White House on Monday to discuss Pakistan following the weekend incident, which prompted Pakistan to shut down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan in retaliation and which was the worst of its kind since Islamabad allied itself with Washington in 2001.

"We have been here before. But this time it's much more serious," said Farzana Sheikh, associate fellow of the Asia program at Chatham House in London.

"The government has taken a very stern view. It's not quite clear at this stage what more Pakistani authorities can do, apart from suspending supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan."

The weekend attack was the latest perceived provocation by the United States, which infuriated and embarrassed Pakistan's powerful military in May with a unilateral special forces raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.


Adding a new element to tensions and giving a diplomatic boost to Islamabad, China said it was "deeply shocked" by the incident and expressed "strong concern for the victims and profound condolences for Pakistan.

Russia, seeking warmer relations with Pakistan as worry grows over the NATO troop pullout in Afghanistan, said it was "unacceptable" to violate the sovereignty of states even when hunting "terrorists."

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Pakistan was rethinking whether to attend next week's conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, although Washington had not yet received any definitive decision from the Pakistanis.

"We understand that they are reconsidering," Toner told reporters. "We hope that they do in fact attend this conference because this is a conference about ... building a more stable and prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan and so that is very much in the interests of Pakistan."

On Saturday, NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan, killing the 24 soldiers and wounding 13, the army said.

NATO described the killings as a "tragic, unintended incident." U.S. officials say a NATO investigation and a separate American one will seek to determine what happened. The U.S. investigation will provide initial findings by December 23, military officials said.

"It is very much in America's national security interest to maintain a cooperative relationship with Pakistan because we have shared interests in the fight against terrorism, and so we will continue to work on that relationship," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

A Western official and an Afghan security official who requested anonymity said NATO troops were responding to fire from across the border at the time of the incident.

Pakistan's military denied NATO forces had come under fire before launching the attack, saying the strike was unprovoked and reserving the right to retaliate.

Abbas, the military spokesman, said the attack lasted two hours despite warnings from Pakistani border posts.

"They were contacted through the local hotline and also there had been contacts through the director-general of military operations. But despite that, this continued," he said.

After a string of deadly incidents in the largely lawless and confusing border region, NATO and Pakistan set up the hotline that should allow them to communicate in case of confusion over targets and avoid "friendly fire."

Both the Western and Pakistani explanations are possibly correct: that a retaliatory attack by NATO troops took a tragic, mistaken turn in harsh terrain where differentiating friend from foe can be difficult.

An Afghan Taliban commander, Mullah Samiullah Rahmani, said the group had not been engaged in any fighting with NATO or Afghan forces in the area when the incident took place. But he added that Taliban fighters control several Afghan villages near the border with Pakistan.

A similar cross-border incident on September 30, 2010, which killed two Pakistani service personnel, led to the closure of one of NATO's supply routes through Pakistan for 10 days.


The main Pakistani association that delivers fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan said it would not resume supplies soon in protest against the NATO strike.

In the Mohmand region, where the attack took place, hundreds of angry tribesmen yelled "Death to America." About 200 lawyers protested in Peshawar city, some burning an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Pakistani editorials were strident. "We have to send a clear and unequivocal message to NATO and America that our patience has run out. If even a single bullet of foreign forces crosses into our border, then two fires will be shot in retaliation," said one mass-circulation Urdu language paper.

Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on militancy launched after al Qaeda's attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and has won billions of dollars in aid in return.

But the unstable, nuclear-armed country has often been described as an unreliable ally and the United States has resorted to controversial drone aircraft strikes against militants on Pakistani territory to pursue its aims.

U.S. Senator John McCain, a leading voice of Republicans on military issues, echoed frustration in Washington when he said the loss of life was "tragic" but that Pakistani intelligence still supported militants fueling violence in Afghanistan.

"Certain facts in Pakistan continue to complicate significantly the ability of coalition and Afghan forces to succeed in Afghanistan," he said.

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Rebecca Conway in ISLAMABAD, Izaz Mohmand, Jibran Ahmad and Faris Ali in PESHAWAR, William Maclean in LONDON and Missy Ryan, Caren Bohan, Susan Cornwell and Arshad Mohammed in WASHINGTON; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Rockets fired from Lebanon hit Israel - army

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 05:10 PM PST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Several rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel on Tuesday, and the Jewish state returned fire across the border in response, military officials said.

Two buildings in the western Galilee area were damaged, Israeli media said, but there were no reported casualties. Residents said they heard two explosions and that houses shook.

An Israeli military spokesman said the rockets were the first fired since 2009 across a border where a 34-day war was fought in 2006 between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas based in Lebanon.

"Several rockets hit the western Galilee. The Israeli army considers the incident severe and is targeting origins of fire," said a statement from the military spokesman's office.

The Ynet news Web site said residents saw plumes of smoke where the rockets struck.

The Israeli-Lebanese border has been largely quiet in recent years, though some have worried about a possible spillover of tensions from a months-old revolt in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad and from a stiffening of Western sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Ralph Gowling)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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Bollywood’s fitness craze

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 12:02 AM PST

Anything and everything related to fitness spells megabucks.

IN an industry where millions ride on spectacular figures and physiques, it is no surprise that Bollywood actors are endorsing fitness products or launching their own health-related businesses to rake in the megabucks.

From the sultry Shilpa Shetty to the "Bengali bombshell" Bipasha Basu, Mallika Sherawat, Yana Gupta and Kareena Kapoor, a host of Indian actresses have joined the fitness bandwagon to cash in on their alluring screen personae.

Dum Maaro Dum star Bipasha, for instance, is endorsing a range of health products, apart from launching her own fitness products. Bipasha is the brand ambassador of McVities health biscuits (for which she was reportedly paid US$1mil/RM3.2mil), Dabur's Real Activ juice and Sugar Free Gold artificial sweeteners.

"Fitness is about 50% diet and 50% exercise," says the actress who is much envied for her well-toned body. Bipasha has often talked about her own punishing exercise regimen that includes cardiovascular exercises, weight training, treadmill, yoga and cycling.

As a brand extension, she has also launched two workout DVDs – Bipasha Basu - Love Yourself and A Fabulous Workout DVD For A Fit And Fabulous You – which are apparently selling well.

Interestingly, for her fitness video, Bipasha had also multitasked as the concept designer, director and scriptwriter.

"I have seen many fitness videos," she says at the media launch. "But I haven't found one that is truly great. To an amateur, those DVDs and workout regimes are complex. When I started working out, I had no clue on how to go about it. Then I started reading about fitness and watched DVDs and I've been training intensively for six years now."

As a clever marketing strategy, Bipasha had managed to rope in some of Indian cinema's biggest names to endorse her video. Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, cricketer M.S. Dhoni, Priyanka Chopra and John Abraham are featured sharing their fitness tips on Bipasha's DVD.

The actress is also launching a signature fitness clothing line – the eponymous BB Love Yourself – for which she has tied up with Reebok. She has also designed a line of fitness outfits.

Bipasha opines that people ought to look fashionable during workouts as "there are clothes beyond the sports bra and tights" for such occasions. Apparently, the fitness freak is tapping top-of-the-line fashion stores to market her line and might even go international.

Apart from Bipasha, Shilpa Shetty and Lara Dutta – both self-confessed fitness buffs – have also morphed into fitness gurus by launching their own fitness DVDs. Bollywood hottie Mallika also recently announced that she will release her soon-to-be launched fitness DVD in the United States where "many people ask me for my exercise and diet tips".

To be fair, Shilpa was the first to enter the celebrity physical fitness space two years ago by putting together a yoga video which she called a "management system for life". The 34-year-old actress, who also produced and starred in the video, says she made it in response to fans' questions about how she stayed fit.

"A lot of fans have asked about my fitness regime – I think this is the best way to tell them how to stay healthy," says Shilpa at the media launch. Shilpa elaborates that her aim in producing the 72-minute video entitled Shilpa's Yoga – An Introduction To Dynamic Free Flow Yoga Practice – whose cover features the actress sitting cross-legged in a meditative pose, was "to make it simple for people to do yoga".

The DVD elaborates on Shilpa's tips for stress management, increased energy and vitality, weight loss and improved circulation and digestion.

"It can be done by a 10- or 60-year-old," she says. She credits yoga for having a "spectacular impact" on her own life. "It has helped my mind, body and soul," says the new entrepreneur, who has also launched a spa, a perfume (SS) and a nightclub in Mumbai with her London-based tycoon husband Raj Kundra.

However, the most recent celebrity to join the fitness DVD bandwagon is Czech beauty and Bollywood item girl Yana Gupta. Yana is preparing to launch her video on yoga, diet and meditation featuring herself later this year.

When it comes to fit Bollywood artistes, Kareena is amongst its frontrunners. Kareena's yoga practice, weight training and a strict diet regimen have been well-documented by her fitness trainer Rujuta Diwekar in her book Don't Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight.

Rujuta is the fitness guru of the who's who of Bollywood, including Kareena, her sister Karishma and beau Saif Ali Khan, Canada-born actress Lisa Ray and Sonali Bendre.

Interestingly, Rujuta's book has a foreword by Kareena, who feels the trainer has not just changed her body, but also her mind and soul.

"When a celebrity endorses a book on diet and nutrition, it implies he/she supports the views of the author, and that helps to take the message across to his/her fans," says Delhi-based author Geeta Pandya.

Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based senior journalist.

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Best of the West

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 12:01 AM PST

PERHAPS Indian actors are taking a leaf out of Hollywood's books by cashing in on their fans' fitness craze.

Celebrity fitness videos are essentially a Western trend popularised by Hollywood actress Jane Fonda in the 1980s.

Fonda's aerobics video – Jane Fonda's Workout (1982) – took the world by storm and holds the record for selling 17 million copies worldwide. DVD versions of the legendary actress' video – who is now 74 and still looking fabulous – were re-released from 2005 onwards.

Fonda's first exercise video was inspired by her best-selling book, Jane Fonda's Workout Book. The video's release led many people to buy the then-new VCR in order to perform the workout in the privacy and convenience of their homes.

Fonda subsequently released 23 workout videos, five workout books and 13 audio programmes, through 1995. After a 15-year hiatus, she released two new fitness videos on DVD last year, aiming at an older audience.

"Fitness videos help to further the potential of this business because of two things: first, the celebrity in question knows what has worked for her body, and she wants to share it with the world. And second, marketing the video is not a challenge with a celeb in the package," says fitness expert Dhiru Adhikari.

However, sceptics of the trend point out that there's a downside to this craze as well – the buyers are so enamoured with the celebrity that they blindly follow the fitness routine without checking whether it suits them or not. People with high blood pressure, heart conditions and renal problems especially need to be careful.

Even so, marketing analysts say the potential of the celeb fitness industry is huge.

"It's a consumer's market as far as fitness goes," opines Dhiru.

Plus, the fitness industry across India is being propelled by a narcissistic urge to follow celebrities.

Nutritionist and fitness consultant Shikha Sharma, an industry veteran for two decades, feels that a desire to have super-slim bodies like that of celebrities is the main driving force behind the fitness industry in India.

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The Star Online: Business

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Asian markets gain on euro-zone speculation

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 05:48 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Asian markets rose in Tuesday morning trade with the local bourse up 0.43% to 1,437.77 at open as investor sentiments were buoyed by the highest-ever US Thanksgiving sales as well as speculation that more might be done to contain the troubles in the euro-zone.

However, analysts said trading on the local bourse would likely be range-bound with a positive bias amid uncertainties in Asia where the Japanese October jobless rate was up 4.5% from the median 4.2% reported in a Bloomberg survey and fears of a slowdown in China's property market.

At 9.30am, the FBM KLCI was up 0.58% to 1,439.92 boosted by gains in Genting, Sime Darby and BAT.

At Bursa Malaysia, gainers outpaced losers 341 to 73 while 139 other counters were traded unchanged. There were 228.83 million shares traded with a turnover of RM159.60 million.

Spot gold prices fluctuated between US$1,708 and US$1,710 per ounce, down between a fifth to a quarter of a percent while Nymex crude oil was two-thirds of a percent lower at US$97 to US$98 per barrel.

The ringgit strengthened against the US dollar at 3.179 and against the euro at 4.233.

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Wall Street ends 7-day slide

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 04:46 PM PST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rebounded from seven days of losses on Monday as investors used the latest effort from European leaders to resolve the region's debt crisis as an opportunity to cover short positions.

Trading was light, a sign skepticism remains high. Just 6.8 billion shares changed hands during the day on U.S. exchanges, below the daily average of 8 billion shares.

After the market's close, Fitch Ratings revised to negative the outlook on the United States' AAA credit rating after a special congressional committee failed to agree on at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.

Retailers were among the strong sectors following an robust start to the U.S. holiday shopping season. Record sales over the Thanksgiving weekend buoyed gains in large retailers, including Macy's, which rose 4.7 percent to $30.84.

The gains follow a seven-day string of losses on the benchmark S&P 500. The latest attempt to get the euro zone problems on the path to improvement involve a Franco-German push for tighter budgetary control over euro zone members.

Analysts say the move may not be followed by more buying without an actual plan for euro zone help.

"Unfortunately, these rallies are short-lived until real dollars or real euros are injected into the financial system," said Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Germany and France pushed to acquire powers to reject national budgets in the euro zone that breach European Union rules ahead of an EU summit on December 9.

An Italian newspaper report suggested the International Monetary Fund was preparing a rescue plan for Italy, but the IMF denied the report.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 291.23 points, or 2.59 percent, at 11,523.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 33.88 points, or 2.92 percent, at 1,192.55. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 85.83 points, or 3.52 percent, at 2,527.34.

Stock futures showed little movement after the announcement from Fitch, and analysts said it was probably expected by the market.

"I don't think we're going to see much of a market reaction. It's generally confirmation of what's been built into the market," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at The Davidson Cos in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

During the regular session, all 10 S&P sectors were up sharply, but energy and consumer discretionary stocks were among sectors with the biggest gains. The S&P energy index was up 3.6 percent, while the S&P consumer discretionary index was up 3 percent and S&P financials rose 3 percent.

Weak consumer spending has been a worry for investors, and the holiday period would likely confirm whether there's been any improvement in that area.

A report on consumer confidence in November, which is expected to have risen, is due Tuesday.

The S&P retail index advanced 3.1 percent, including Best Buy Co Inc, which added 3.4 percent to $26.49.

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Possible euro exits unsettling - and alluring - for market

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 04:45 PM PST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - News that the world's top foreign exchange broker has been testing its trading system against a possible euro collapse conjures a host of images and ideas for currency traders and investors, not all of them bad.

If one or more country ditches the euro, the revival of old currencies would mean more opportunity for profit in the $4 trillion-a-day FX market, traders say.

Yet establishing new exchange rates, sorting out how to settle trades and getting a handle on counterparty risk are enough to unnerve even the most intrepid of investors. The cost to nations of leaving the euro zone would be felt in reduced purchasing power that comes with a suddenly weak currency.

Banks with large foreign exchange dealing operations, including Barclays and Citigroup , declined comment on whether they had tested their trading systems.

But a trader at a global investment bank told Reuters "that conversation is taking place. It (euro zone breakup) is not something we think is going to happen, but as a contingency, it's just prudent to look at all the options."

Markets got a reminder about the prospect of a smaller euro zone on Monday after ICAP , the biggest forex broker, confirmed it had tested its EBS currency platform to ensure it could handle a Greek euro exit and a revival of its old currency, the drachma.

"No doubt it would be messy," said Jens Nordvig, global head of G10 currency strategy at Nomura Securities. "It could be very hard for the system to manage."

Europe's worsening debt crisis has markets on edge. Last week, poor bond auctions in Spain, Germany and Italy, which paid a euro-era high to finance short-term debt, suggested to some that markets were losing confidence in the entire euro project, which began in 1999.

According to a Barclays survey conducted in November, nearly 50 percent of respondents expect at least one country to leave the 17-member euro zone in 2012.


On the bright side, quoting a revived drachma or Italian lira on an electronic trading platform would be "the easy part," one currency trader at a North American bank said.

What's more, giving traders a new host of currencies to trade "would be hugely profitable," he said.

"One interesting thing, though, is if you are going to trade drachmas or (Portuguese) escudos or whatever, where are you going to settle?" he said. "Which bank do you trust? It would be awkward. Who would the market maker be? I don't know."

Complicating things further is the fear that European banks may face major losses on euro zone sovereign debt holdings, making traders less likely to use those banks to settle trades.

One way to get around this, some traders said, would be to trade off-shore via a non-deliverable forward contract, much the way markets trade Brazil's real and China's yuan trade.

Per Rasmussen, a retired currency trader who began his career in the 1970s, said things could get even messier if Germany decided to exit the euro and revive the Deutschemark. Demand for the new mark relative to the rump euro could be so great, he said, that the Bundesbank might be unable to print them or credit accounts fast enough.

"I could see the markets not trading for several weeks," he said. "It could paralyze things."


These potential complications may be enough to spur European leaders to do what it takes to keep the euro zone together.

"I have seen estimates that suggest that the cost to a peripheral country like Greece of exiting the euro zone on a unilateral basis would be more than 40 percent of GDP," said Frances Hudson, who helps manage $250 billion at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh. "And for Germany at the other extreme it's still around 30 percent - quite a disincentive."

She said analysis of how markets would handle a breakup "is being done, but this alone may be enough to discourage any further moves in that direction."

Ron Leven, an executive director at Morgan Stanley in New York, said he expects the euro zone to survive intact, with the European Central Bank likely having to give in and guarantee sovereign debt or European banks.

"This will require the ECB to increase significantly its balance sheet and money supply, so it's still negative for the euro," Leven said.

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The Star Online: Sports

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Chong Wei eyes Macau Open crown after Lin Dan’s withdrawal

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 02:12 PM PST


PETALING JAYA: Four-time world champion Lin Dan has withdrawn from tomorrow's Macau Open, leaving Malaysia's world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei with the chance to gun down his eighth Open title of the season.

Chong Wei has decided to stick with his plan to compete in his 13th international Open of the year and win the Macau Open crown for the third time in a row.

In Chong Wei's top half are two youngsters from China – Wang Zhengming and Du Pengyu; three Indonesians – Simon Santoso, Sony Dwi Kuncoro, Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka; South Korean Shon Wan-ho; Hong Kong's Wong Wing Ki and a host of Malaysians – reigning world junior champion Zulfadli Zulkifli, Beryno Wong, Liew Daren and Goh Soon Huat.

Chong Wei has a tricky first round date with Thailand's upcoming youngster Suppanyu Avihingsanon but his real threat could be either Simon or Wang.

Without favourite Lin Dan, who won back-to-back titles in the Hong Kong and China Opens, the fight for a ticket to the final from the bottom half of the draw will be among South Korea's Lee Hyun-il, Indonesia's Taufik Hidayat and Tommy Sugiarto; Japan's Kenichi Tago and several Malaysian players led by former international Mohd Hafiz Hashim.

Former All-England champion Hafiz, who is now playing under the KLRC banner, is hoping to turn in a good showing to earn a place in Malaysia's Thomas Cup Finals squad.

Currently, besides Chong Wei, no other back-up players have proved their worth for a place in the premier world team event.

"Lin Dan will not be around and that is good news.

"He has pocketed two titles in the last two weeks and he can afford to take a rest.

"I will give my best to earn a place in the Thomas Cup squad," said Hafiz.

Hafiz takes on South Korean Lee Dong-keun in the opening round and victory will pit him against compatriot Chan Kwong Beng, who is in the second round following Lin Dan's withdrawal. Lin Dan's absence was confirmed during the team managers' meeting yesterday.

The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM)'s coaching and training chairman Ng Chin Chai said he had spoken to coach Tey Seu Bock in Macau yesterday on Chong Wei's condition following his back-to-back defeats to Lin Dan in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong and China Opens.

"Seu Bock gave an assurance that Chong Wei is not suffering from fatigue. The coach should know best about his player's condition and the green light has been given for Chong Wei to continue playing," said Chin Chai.

With the turn of events in Macau yesterday, it looks like badminton fans will only get one more chance to witness a clash between Lin Dan and Chong Wei this season when the duo renew their rivalry in the Super Series Masters Finals, which will be held in Liuzhou, China, from Dec 14-18.

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When China felt like home for Chong Wei

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 02:12 PM PST

SHANGHAI: Lee Chong Wei certainly enjoys playing in China where he has a legion of fans.

The semi-final clash between Chong Wei and his nemesis Lin Dan in the China Open last Saturday proved again that the world No. 1 is a respected badminton icon in China despite the fact that Lin Dan overshadows his rival with a long list of accolades.

During the match, a huge crowd of Chinese fans rooted for Chong Wei. In some crucial points when the Malaysian shuttler was trailing, some fans even urged him on.

The non-partisan crowd who did not show full support for their own players puzzled China's chief coach Li Yongbo.

When Lin Dan led 19-17 in the first game, many fans began cheering Chong Wei on and this appeared to upset the Chinese ace as he gave away four straight points and lost 19-21.

Lin Dan told reporters that he was upset that he and his team-mates did not enjoy home advantage when playing in China. And that this sometimes affected their game.

"Maybe Chinese fans are more broadminded with a sense of fairplay.

"But when we play in Indonesia and Malaysia, their crowds always support the home players and make it difficult for us," he said.

Lin Dan joked that if the Shanghai crowd continued to show less support for their own players, the Chinese Badminton Association would consider changing the venue of the tournament.

The semi-final ended with Lin Dan eventually beating Chong Wei 19-21, 21-12, 21-11 in 75 minutes. The China star went on to claim his sixth title of the year.

Lin Dan emphasised that he was quite happy with the sporting nature of the Chinese fans.

"I think our fans are quite adorable.

"Many of them may not know that we face a lot of pressure from the home crowd whenever we play overseas.

"I know many fans gave Chong Wei a lot of support in our match. But I don't mind it at all because everyone has his own favourite player," he said.

"Chong Wei is different from other players.

"He has maintained the World No. 1 ranking for a long time and only someone with extraordinary ability can do that.

"He brings out the best in me. I work harder whenever I play Chong Wei as he is extremely difficult to beat."

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As usual – national hockey team in must-win situation

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 02:12 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: It is a situation the national hockey team invariably find themselves in when they have a slow start to a tournament and it is no different at the on-going Champions Challenge I in Johannesburg.

The team have to, once again, deal with a must-win situation against Argentina today after digging a hole for themselves with shoddy performances in their two earlier matches.

While all eight teams will figure in the quarterfinals, the Malaysians are last in Group B with one point and a draw or defeat against the South Americans will see them face the top teams in Group A in the cross-over matches.

While a win is not likely to give them the top spot, as they have an inferior goal difference to Argentina, they need to finish second or third in Group B. Canada and Japan, who meet in an earlier match, have a chance to finish at the top as well.

The Malaysians have turned in some insipid performances. There is no doubt they can play better but what is worrying is they are still displaying all the weaknesses identified previously.

This is alarming as in four months' time they will be playing in the all important Olympic qualifiers in Ireland. Given their disappointing showing against Canada (1-3) and Japan (2-2), the Malaysians have a mountain to climb.

Malaysia are trying hard to get back into the Olympics after falling at the qualifiers for Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Their last outing in the Olympics was in Sydney 2000.

Team manager George Koshy said he expects the team to perform better now that they have had two matches under their belt.

"Argentina are a good side, well balanced, with several experienced players in their ranks. But they I believe they are beatable. They drew with Japan and had to come from behind to beat Canada. We will have to take the game to them if we are to upset them," he said.

Koshy conceded that even if they won there was no certainty they would avoid India or Belgium, the big guns in Group A.

"To be realistic we are looking at third place even if we beat Argentina. Of course that could change if Canada and Japan play to a draw.

"We have to improve on our performance and win the last match to boost our confidence. We must be prepared to face any team in the last eight," he said.

Koshy added that the team's slow starts to tournaments and matches were a worrying trend.

"This is something we must overcome before the Olympic qualifiers. We had a talk with the players and they realise that it isn't good to put themselves under a lot of pressure by playing catch-up. We could have done with the two friendly matches before the tournament but rain spoilt it for us. Still, it's not an excuse and the problem has to be rectified," he said.

Koshy also said that the coaches have taken great pains to rectify the weaknesses.

"They have really been working very hard so we are stumped that the players are making the same mistakes. You can tell them and also show them the match video but it isn't getting through yet," he explained.

Argentina play a well organised game and do not give up easily. Their penalty corner batteries are also one of the best in the game. Their coaches Pablo and Jorge Lombi were top players and know how to prepare the team.

So unless the Malaysians raise their game they may well end up on the losing end and dig themselves into a deeper hole.

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The Star Online: Nation

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It’s a time for hot sales, too

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 03:10 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno-themed kain sampin and shirts are among some of the creative wares for sale at the party's general assembly this week.

A total of 239 traders have set up shop for the five-day event at the Putra World Trade Centre here.

Textile shop manager Ahmad Nazmi Ismail claimed that his Umno and Barisan Nasional-inspired shirts were "one of a kind."

"The shirts will make a nice souvenir for delegates," he said.

The 39-year-old said the shirts were priced at RM65 each while the kain sampin with the Umno logo motif would be sold at RM125 each.

"The shirts are for both men and women," said Ahmad Nazmi, whose company is based in Terengganu.

Pewter artist-cum-designer Salu-din Zakaria, 45, said he expected RM70,000 in sales this week from his decorative pieces, which were made of pewter flakes.

His decorative pieces included the 1Malaysia and Umno logos, Jawi words and customised portraits.

"I make all the pieces by hand and the largest can take up to two weeks to be completed," said the man from Kuantan.

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Three killed in trawler blast

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 03:10 PM PST

KOTA KINABALU: Three people were killed and four others injured after an explosion ripped through a fishing trawler and destroyed two other boats in Sabah's northern district of Kudat.

It is believed that the blast occurred after a faulty cooking gas cylinder exploded near the boat's diesel-loaded fuel tank, sparking off the bigger explosion and setting the boat ablaze.

The flames quickly spread to two fishing boats berthed next to the trawler at the Angkasa Baru jetty in Kudat town, which is about 215km from here, at about 9.40pm on Sunday.

The remains of the three dead two women and a man whose identities have yet to be ascertained were found floating near the trawlers yesterday.

The four injured, including a woman, managed to save themselves by jumping into the sea. One of them was seriously injured but reported to be in stable condition.

Kudat police chief Deputy Supt Dawi Ossen said investigations were ongoing.

"Beat policemen were patrolling near the area when they heard a loud explosion.

"They rushed over and saw the flames engulfing the trawlers," he said.

DSP Dawi said no foul play was involved in the incident, adding that firefighters managed to douse the flames and prevent the blaze from spreading to other nearby vessels.

He said the injured, aged between 21 and 50, suffered burns and fractures while the dead were all believed to be foreigners.

Meanwhile, the bodies of a woman and her son have been recovered after a homemade raft they were on capsized at a river in Kampung Lihak-Lihak in Semporna three days ago.

Hajarah Kadin, 44, and Mohamad Nawi Norhati, 14, were on board the engine-powered raft which was carrying a lorry and a car when it tipped over in the strong current.

Semporna police chief Deputy Supt Mohd Azim Khan Abdullah said the raft was a normal mode of transportation for villagers to cross the 50m-wide river.

Hajarah and her son were sitting in the lorry with the woman's brother Rusmi while four others were in the car when the accident happened.

The rest managed to swim to safety after the raft overturned.

Hajarah and her son could not get out of the lorry in time.

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Indonesian ring selling fake MyKad for RM300

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 03:02 PM PST

INDONESIANS can get a fake MyKad for a mere RM300, Harian Metro reported.

A syndicate said to be headed by an Indonesian man working as a labourer in Kuala Lumpur is believed to be behind the MyKad racket.

The syndicate was exposed following the arrest of a 20-year-old youth from Riau at a traffic police road block in Jalan Raja near Dataran Merdeka on Sunday.

Special unit enforcement chief Asst Supt Azmi Wahid said the suspect had attempted to escape but was caught by the policemen.

"He first claimed to be a Malaysian.

"However, further investigations showed that he was holding a fake MyKad.

"He said an Indonesian man working as a labourer was behind the racket selling the fake cards at RM300 a piece to compatriots who had either lost their passports or had entered the country illegally," he said.

> Kosmo reported that a 21-year-old factory worker was killed when a lorry rammed into him in Krubong, Malacca, at about 4.45pm on Sunday.

Jackson Basiri, who was riding a motorcycle, was on his way to a futsal court in Cheng.

Melaka Tengah OCPD Asst Comm Salehhudin Abdul Rahman said the victim fell off his motorbike and was run over by the lorry's rear tyres.

Jackson died on the spot due to severe injuries to his body.

His body has been sent to Malacca Hospital for post-mortem.

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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Actress Eja spooked out

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 12:21 AM PST

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'Women in Love'' director Ken Russell dies

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 02:28 AM PST

LONDON: Ken Russell, the British director of Women in Love and The Devils, has died at the age of 84, the BBC said on Monday.

Media reports said he died in his sleep on Sunday night.

Russell began his career with the BBC and went on to direct some of the most controversial and violent films of the 1960s and 70s.

Women in Love, a 1969 adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's novel, became infamous for its nude wrestling scene between actors Alan Bates and Oliver Reed.

Russell was criticised for the level of violence in the 1971 religious drama The Devils.

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Christian Bale hanging up his Batman cape-report

Posted: 27 Nov 2011 06:31 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Dark Knight Rises" may be Christian Bale's final performance as crime-fighting superhero Batman, the actor told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Set for release in July, the movie is Bale's third stint as Gotham's Caped Crusader for director Christopher Nolan, after "Batman Begins" (2005) and "The Dark Knight" (2008).

"I wrapped a few days ago, so that will be the last time I'm taking that cowl [Batman hood] off," Bale told the newspaper during an interview in Beverly Hills. "I believe that the whole production wrapped yesterday, so it's all done. Everything's finished. It's me and Chris - that will be the end of that Batman era.

The 37-year-old actor's comments, published late last week, weren't his first indication that he might have reached the end of the Batmobile ride. Bale told E! News in November one year ago that "unless Chris says different, this will be the last time I'm playing Batman."

Bale, who received an Oscar last year for his supporting performance in "The Fighter," next appears on the big screen in Zhang Yimou's China-set period drama "The Flowers of War." He'll also star in two films from "Tree of Life" director Terrence Malick.

Joining Bale in "The Dark Knight Rises" are Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway, as Catwoman.

Film actors who have preceded Bale in the dual role of Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, include Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Author talk

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 11:57 PM PST

DOUBT, worry and fear are the "dragons" we all face from time to time. Is it possible to free our minds from these three dragons forever?

Anthony Strano (pic) believes it is. A spiritual seeker and teacher, Strano presents his approach to doing so in his latest book, Slaying The Three Dragons, sharing how to break free from the judgements and criticisms that consistently affect quality of life. Strano, who speaks internationally on spirituality, is the director of activities for the Brahma Kumaris centre in Greece and Turkey. The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University has 8,500 centres that teach spiritual knowledge as well as meditation that relaxes the mind; members are also involved in social service activities.

Strano will be in Malaysia from Friday to Sunday (Dec 2-4) to conduct a meditation retreat. He will also be making an appearance at the Borders@The Curve, Mutiara Damansara, Selangor, on Sunday at 4pm. He will be giving a talk and signing his latest two books, Slaying The Three Dragons and Seeking Silence. Attendance at this event is free, but pre-registration is required; you can do so at Borders@The Curve or contact the bookstore at 03-7725 9303.

Participation in the meditation retreat requires payment; for details, call 017-291 0928 or 012-208 0731.

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Experienced side lift Chinese World Cup

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 03:39 AM PST

MALAYSIA, led by former international Khan Hung Meng, became the champions in the above-45 year group in the Chinese World Cup football competition in Haikou, Hainan, China recently.

In the final, Malaysia, with several former internationals including Chan Keat Wwee, Ho Hon Seong, Kwek King Kiong and Chen Wooi Haw, defeated New York United World Chinese Soccer Club 2-1 to win the competition.

In the preliminary round, Malaysia had defeated China Qingdao Soccer Club 2-1; Hainan Club 84 Soccer Club 2-0 and San Francisco VIP Soccer Club 3-0 to qualify for the final.

Hung Meng said they were pleased to win the competition.

"The players gave their best. Most of us had slowed down but we have the experience to match our opponents,'' said Hung Meng.

A total of seven teams took part in the competition, ninth in the series, organised by the World Chinese Soccer Association based in New York.

Malaysia's participation in the competition was supported Wen-Parker Soccer Club in New York and American Malaysian Alex New.

"Alex's generosity provided us the privilege to take part in the competition. We are thankful to him and Wen-Parker Soccer Club,'' said Hung Meng.

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Formula Drift Malaysia making a comeback for third year at Dataran Merdeka

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 03:39 AM PST

FAST cars, screeching tyres and billowing smoke return to Kuala Lumpur as the adrenaline-pumping action of the Achilles Formula Drift Malaysia 2011 returns on Dec 17 and 18.

Following a successful event last year, ESPN STAR Sports (ESS) and title sponsor Achilles Radial have announced the return of the third edition to Dataran Merdeka.

This year, spectators can look forward to catching some 40 professional drivers from across the Asia-Pacific pushing their rear-wheel-drive cars to the limit with impeccable precision and vehicle control.

This year's edition will see the return of defending champion Daigo Saito of Spark Achilles Motorsports, who has stamped his authority on the series, having won the Singapore and Indonesian legs earlier in convincing fashion.

Daigo will be facing stiff competition from his fellow countryman and race legend Orido Manubu in his iconic RSR Toyota Supra.

This will be Orido's debut in the Formula Drift Asia series and fans can expect no less than some world-class drifting skills on display by this legend.

Other top drivers from the region include Thai stars Kiki Sak Nana and Saranon, in addition to Australian champion Josh Boetchher, who will make his maiden appearance in Malaysia.

Malaysia's top drivers will be looking to capitalise on the local partisan support and their home-ground advantage as they eye for podium finishes at the championship in front of their fans in Kuala Lumpur.

Local crowd favourites such as Ivan Lau, Tan Tat Wei, Ariff Johanis and Ee Yoong Chern will be sure to give the international drivers a run for their money.

"With support from Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Dataran Merdeka has been the perfect host for our hugely successful event last year and we expect a bigger response in this upcoming edition," said ESPN STAR sports event management vice-president Harvey Davis.

The Malaysian edition of the Formula Drift has become a highlight on the sporting calendar, attracting regional interest and talent, as well as world-class drivers hailing from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.

Fans in Malaysia can expect a thrilling experience as top-class drivers burn up the course two-at-a-time, often only inches apart, featuring aggressive side-by-side action, nail-biting power slides and spectacular drifting along a series of tight corners as powerful engines roar and tires bellow smoke.

The Achilles Formula Drift Malaysia 2011 is the third leg of the Achilles Asian Drift Series 2011, which covers Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Tickets are now available from Ticket Pro ( or hotline 03-7880 7999).

Walkabout tickets cost RM28 and grandstand tickets go for RM128.

For details, log on to

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