Jumaat, 2 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Japan's defence minister faces growing calls to quit - media

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 07:56 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - There are growing calls within Japan's ruling party for Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa to resign before a censure motion next week over a string of gaffes that threaten the relocation of a U.S. military base, Japanese newspapers reported on Saturday.

Ichikawa should resign either before or shortly after the non-binding but embarrassing censure motion passes to limit damage to a cabinet launched only three months ago, several Japanese newspapers reported, citing senior ruling Democratic Party members.

Japan's newly-appointed Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa attends at a news conference at the Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo September 2, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

If Ichikawa does resign, that could embolden the opposition and make it more difficult for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to seek broad support to double the sales tax to 10 percent, change the welfare system and compile next fiscal year's budget.

A senior defence ministry official last week likened plans to relocate an airbase in the southern island of Okinawa to a rape, sparking anger and prompting opposition parties to agree on submitting a censure motion against Ichikawa to the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament.

The motion is likely to pass, Japanese media said.

Ichikawa is also under attack after he told parliament last week he did not know the details of a 1995 Okinawa rape case, in which a 12-year-old girl was assaulted by three U.S. servicemen, stoking anti-U.S. base sentiment on the island and shaking Japan's security alliance with the United States.

(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Panetta: Israel must get to the "damn" peace table

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 06:56 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged Israel on Friday to get back to the "damn" negotiating table with Palestinians and take steps to address what he described as the Jewish state's growing isolation in the Middle East.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dons his glasses as during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Panetta, addressing a forum in Washington, also made one of his most extensive arguments to date against any imminent military action against Iran over its nuclear program, saying he was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were working.

"You always have the last resort ... of military action. But it must be the last resort, not the first," Panetta said.

Militarily strong, Israel is battling a diplomatic storm as Arab uprisings upset once-stable relationships in the Middle East. But Panetta warned Israel against viewing uprisings like the one in Egypt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak as an excuse to enter a defensive crouch.

"I understand the view that this is not the time to pursue peace, and that the Arab awakening further imperils the dream of a safe and secure, Jewish and democratic Israel. But I disagree with that view," Panetta said.

He said Israel needed to take risks, including by breathing new life into moribund peace talks with Palestinians. When asked by a moderator what steps Israel needed to take to pursue peace, Panetta said: "Just get to the damn table."

"The problem right now is we can't get 'em to the damn table, to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences," Panetta said.


Panetta said the United States would safeguard Israel's security, ensure regional stability and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon -- a goal Tehran denies having.

"Israel, too, has a responsibility to pursue these shared goals -- to build regional support for Israeli and United States' security objectives," Panetta said.

"I believe security is dependent on a strong military but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy. And unfortunately, over the past year, we've seen Israel's isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow."

Panetta suggested that Israel reach out and mend fences with countries like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan which "share an interest in regional stability."

Turkey was the first Muslim state to recognize Israel, in 1949, but relations worsened last year when Israeli commandos boarded an aid flotilla challenging a naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and killing nine Turks in ensuing clashes.

"It is in Israel's interest, Turkey's interest, and U.S. interest for Israel to reconcile with Turkey, and both Turkey and Israel need to do more to put their relationship back on track," Panetta said.

Israel is closely watching developments in Egypt, whose new rulers may be more susceptible to widespread anti-Israeli sentiment than under Mubarak.

Egyptians voted on Friday in the opening round of the country's first free election in six decades. The Muslim Brotherhood's party and its ultra-conservative Salafi rivals looked set to top the polls.

But Panetta said the best course for the United States and the international community was to continue to put pressure on Egypt to follow through with transition to democracy and ensure any future government stands by its peace treaty with Israel.

Turning to Iran, Panetta used some of his strongest language yet to explain U.S. concerns about any military strike against Iran over its nuclear program -- which the West believes is aimed at an atomic bomb. Tehran denies this, saying its uranium enrichment is entirely peaceful.

Panetta said a strike could disrupt the already fragile economies of Europe and the United States, trigger Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces, and ultimately spark a popular backlash in Iran that would bolster its rulers.

It also may not be effective. Panetta cited estimates from Israelis that a strike might set back Iran's nuclear program by one to two years "at best."

He finally warned about engulfing the region in war.

"Lastly I think the consequence could be that we would have an escalation that would take place that would not only involve many lives, but I think could consume the Middle East in confrontation and conflict that we would regret," he said.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Insight - African leader's son tests U.S. anti-corruption push

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 06:28 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The wealthy son of Equatorial Guinea's president squared off this week against the U.S. government in a legal battle over efforts to seize his $30 million (19 million pounds) California mansion, exotic cars, a private jet and an extensive collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia.

Equatorial Guinea's President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in Moscow, June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

In a test of the Obama administration's campaign against bribery and corruption involving foreign countries, the case of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue stands out not only as an example of the government's strategy, but for its sheer excess.

Obiang has an $81,600-a-year job as minister of forestry and agriculture for the impoverished nation that his father has led for 32 years. But Obiang owns a Malibu mansion, drives numerous luxury cars and flies around in a Gulfstream jet.

He also owns, as part of a expensive and expansive collection, one crystal encrusted glove once worn by Jackson and other signed memorabilia of the late pop star.

The U.S. Justice Department earlier this year accused Obiang of taking more than $100 million from Equatorial Guinea and sought to seize his assets in the United States.

But Obiang this week asserted his ownership rights in court, launching a fight to keep the Malibu estate, the plane, a 2011 Ferrari and $1.8 million worth of Jackson memorabilia.

A Washington, D.C.-based spokesman for Obiang was not immediately available for comment.

The United States geared up efforts to root out corruption in developing countries during the Bush administration and the Obama administration has carried on, winning multimillion

dollar settlements from companies that admitted paying bribes.

The Justice Department has in recent years expanded a drive to try to claw back assets bought with ill-gotten gains by foreign officials, sometimes called kleptocrats.


Early seizure cases were small in dollar terms, but they have gotten bigger, with the Obiang case a prime example.

Seizing assets can take a long time. Developing evidence is often difficult. In a corruption case involving property owned by the family of the former leader of Taiwan, efforts to seize a posh Manhattan condominium and a Virginia home are still pending more than 16 months after they began.

"What they're prosecuting are definitely the egregious ones and they're prosecuting ones where they're able to get the evidence they need," said Heather Lowe, legal counsel at Washington, D.C.-based Global Financial Integrity, which focuses on efforts to curb illegal money flows.

She said the Obiang case was easier to pursue because much of the evidence was dug earlier up by a U.S. Senate committee.

The Justice Department reportedly has also been investigating Obiang and associates for corruption. An agency spokeswoman in Washington declined to comment.

Rich in oil, Equatorial Guinea ranks 11th among countries perceived as having the world's most corrupt public sectors, according to a list released on Thursday by Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption group.

Obiang's father became the longest-serving head of state in Africa after the death in October of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

"When a developing country's public officials routinely abuse their power for personal gain, its people suffer," said Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice department's criminal division, in a speech in November.

"Roads are not built, schools lie in ruin and basic public services go unprovided ... Political institutions lose legitimacy, and people lose hope that they will ever be able to improve their lot," he said.


Equatorial Guinea has a population of about 700,000, most of whom live in squalor and poverty despite billions of dollars in revenue coming into the country as a result of its large oil, timber and natural gas resources.

U.S. prosecutors say that Obiang and other government officials have used bribery and extortion schemes to fill government coffers and steal the money. They said the schemes have included requiring companies to pay so-called taxes and fees, as well to make donations to pet projects.

"When you don't have access to education, you don't have access to healthcare, you don't have access to water, it is apparent that this money is being diverted elsewhere," said Sarah Pray, a policy analyst on African affairs for the Open Society Foundations, a New York-based group.

While accusations of rampant corruption and bribery in Equatorial Guinea have swirled for years under the Obiang family's rule, U.S. authorities have only brought a handful of cases involving companies paying bribes there.

When officials siphon off funds, it "makes it very difficult behavior to go after," said Alexandra Wrage, a legal expert on bribery who is the president of the firm TRACE, which helps firms comply with anti-bribery law.

Known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the law bars any company listed on U.S. markets from paying a bribe - in money or gifts - to get favourable treatment for its business.


The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 2004 found numerous payments by U.S. oil companies to Equatorial Guinea that may have constituted bribes, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched a probe.

The SEC probed five oil companies: Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron, Devon Energy, Amerada Hess and Marathon Oil. The last two of these five companies said the SEC decided against taking action in 2009, while the others did not discuss the probe in detail.

The SEC a year ago settled with GlobalSantaFe Corp, a firm later acquired by oil driller Transocean Ltd, over allegedly illegal payments made in Nigeria, Angola, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea from 2002-2007.

Wrage, of TRACE, said she is familiar with most of the U.S. companies operating in Equatorial Guinea and she said they have strong anti-bribery compliance and training programs.

"It just seems unlikely to me that they would have engaged in conduct that is, on its face, a violation of the FCPA. If they had, I think the Justice Department would be involved by now," she said.

In the Obiang case, a federal judge in Washington has given the Justice Department permission to seek foreign assistance to grab his Gulfstream jet if the opportunity arises. However, getting final court approval to seize it all could take years.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Eye on Stock

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 05:20 PM PST

SHARES of ECM Libra Financial Group Bhd had breached the most recent peak of 84.5 sen by a tick to achieve a high of 85 sen during intra-day session on fresh bargain hunting interest before trimming gains slightly to end up 3.5 sen to 83.5 sen yesterday.

Based on the daily bar chart, prices appear making another attempt to resume the recovery process after rebounding from the 63-sen level on Sept 26, followed by a period of sideways consolidation, lasting more than a month.

Apparently, the success rate looks great, with the sighting of a tentative positive breakout and most importantly, trading volumes are piling up.

Turning to the indicators, the oscillator per cent K and the oscillator per cent D of the daily slow-stochastic momentum index inched higher to settle at the 54% and 49% respectively. It triggered a short-term buy a week ago.

Mirroring the trend, the 14-day relative strength index climbed from the mid-range to end at the 69 points level yesterday.

In addition, the daily moving average convergence/divergence histogram crossed above the daily signal line to call for a buy yesterday.

Analysis on the price action over the past several days, combined with an encouraging technical development suggest this stock is likely to firm in the immediate term.

Initial resistance is seen at 86 sen. The upper hurdle is expected at the 90-sen mark, of which a decisive clearance will propel prices higher to challenge the RM1 psychological barrier.

Current support is envisaged at 80 sen and solid floor is resting at the 76-sen line. ● The comments above do not represent a recommendation to buy or sell.

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A potential new upward wave in sight

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 05:20 PM PST

REVIEW: While the local bourse was shut for a public holiday on Monday, stocks in the Asia-Pacific region staged a compelling rally, surging between 1.4% and 3.1% on news that the International Monetary Fund was considering support for Italy as bond yields across the eurozone spiked to new highs.

The recent beaten-down financial shares led the way higher. Later, US markets joined the party on short-covering, which saw the Dow snapping a seven-day losing streak, up 291.23 points to 11,523.01 and crude oil futures scaling US$1.44 to US$98.21 a barrel.

As expected, the bullish offshore markets set the stage for a steadier start to the week, with Bursa Malaysia's leading indicator, the FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) advancing 6.22 points to 1,437.77 in initial deals on Tuesday.

Blue chips topped the winners' list, playing catch up, sending the key index to as high as 1,458.00 in the afternoon before paring gains slightly to close at 1,444.72, up 13.17 points.

Overnight Wall Street climbed higher the next day, firming 32.62 points to 11,555.63 on the back of healing consumer confidence, supported by optimism Europe edged nearer to resolve the two-year-old debt crisis.

Meanwhile, a combination of the geopolitical risks related to the Iranian situation propelled crude oil prices up US$1.58 to settle at US$99.79 a barrel.

In spite of the steadier US markets, most stocks in the Asia-Pacific region turned lower on profit taking. Though major indices such as the Shanghai Composite Index and Hang Seng Index fell 3.3% and 1.46% respectively, buyers still dominated the floor on the local bourse, led by quality issues on foreign and local funds nibbling.

In an unprecedented move, Bursa bucked the lacklustre regional trend to post a gain of 27.38 points to 1,472.10 in mid-week. The local sentiment continued to improve, as a monster rally in overnight Wall Street on easing fears of a credit crunch gave investors' the confidence to indulge in follow-through buying.

The massive rebound in regional markets added to the upbeat mood.

In active session, the FBM KLCI crossed above the 1,500 points psychological barrier to achieve a high of 1,502.53 in the morning before backing off on profit-taking activity, ending up 13.16 points to 1,485.26 on Thursday.

And yesterday, Bursa eked out an additional gains of 3.76 points to 1,489.02 on extended bargain hunting interest, ignoring a mild pullback in overnight Dow.

Statistics: On a weekly basis, the major index added 57.47 points, or 4% to 1,489.02 yesterday, against 1,431.55 on Nov 25.

Total turnover for the four-day holiday-shortened week amounted to 6.210 billion shares worth RM6.738bil, compared with 7.270 billion units valued at RM5.510bil done during the regular previous week.

Technical indicators: After flashing a short-term buy at the oversold area, the oscillator per cent K and the oscillator per cent D of the daily slow-stochastic momentum index continued to mend, ending at 84% and 75% respectively yesterday.

Meanwhile, the 14-day relative strength index sustained the upward momentum from the mid-range to finish at 67 points yesterday. The daily moving average convergence/divergence (MACD) histogram also climbed above the daily signal line to trigger a buy yesterday. Though the weekly slow-stochastic momentum index retained the sell call, the downward pressure had eased.

Elsewhere, the weekly MACD expanded positively against the weekly trigger line to keep the buy signal.

Outlook: Bursa recovered to a high of 1,502.53 on Thursday, the best since Aug 18 amid renewed buying interest before trimming gains slightly in the wake of mild profit-taking selling.

Based on the daily bar chart, it looks like the local bourse has carved out a new bullish wave after the recent correction, but it is one step short of giving us the confirmation, because the key index had yet to overcome the important 200-day simple moving average (SMA), now resting at 1,503.65 and turning flat.

Theoretically, the 200-day SMA is a tough nut to crack but we reckon the bulls have the ability to break it going forward, drawing strength from December, which is traditionally a busy month. A breach of the heavy barrier is likely to open the windows for a re-test of the historical peak of 1,597.08, set on July 11, if not propelling the key index into the uncharted territory.

Technically, indicators such as the daily and weekly MACDs are pretty encouraging, implying there may be more advances in the pipeline.

Support can be expected at the 100-day SMA of 1,473 points, followed by the 21-day SMA of 1,464 points, 14-day SMA of 1,459 points and the next at the 50-day SMA of 1,437 points. The recent lows of 1,424.19 will act as a concrete floor.

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Online campaigns require promptness, comprehensive data

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 05:18 PM PST

IN order to formulate effective online or social media campaigns to drive sales, marketers need to respond as quickly as possible to customer needs and have a sufficient data base of their customers.

SAS Southeast Asia head of customer intelligence Dermot McCutcheon said as opposed to traditional marketing campaigns, customers now expect the campaigns to have sufficient information and marketers to respond much faster to their needs when buying online.

"The world is not just static anymore and customer demands are rising. They expect companies to interact and respond to their needs promptly, otherwise the companies may lose out to their competitors who are able to provide similar products in real time," he says during an interview.

Although companies have automated systems to target customers and manage their campaigns, McCutcheon says the problem with such activity is that it often focuses on growing the customer base rather than growing loyalty for the company's brand or products.

Responding fast to customer queries and having a sufficient data base of customers to enhance brand loyalty for effective marketing campaigns are key, he says, adding that data volume was expected to expand by between 35% and 45% in the coming years as social media becomes more popular and widely used in commerce.

He says social media is becoming an important source to acquire new customers at a fraction of the cost, and expects marketers to shift their budgets from traditional marketing channels to this channel to boost their sales and lower costs.

According to McCutcheon, 70% of data is actually unstructured while 25% is structured and 5% is semi-structured. Unstructured data is derived from sources like web documents, emails, contact centre records, social media, blogs and claims .

Structured or numerical data comes from point-of-sale systems and back-office systems, and semi-structured, which is a hybrid of free form and structured data, comprises data from an email, which has structured data in the header and unstructured text in the body.

He adds that to get a good customer data base, marketers need to collect as much of the right data as possible. This includes the collection of information on the business transactions and channel systems so as to get a comprehensive analysis of customer needs and wants.

McCutcheon says marketing companies should create "a 360-degree customer view" that includes data from every relevant source possible from back-office systems to online and offline customer contact channels for every business unit, product or brand. Good data management tools and common meta-data make it possible to incorporate data from disparate and incompatible source systems, he notes.

Marketers striving to have effective sales campaigns should also build customer intelligence on top of their customer data base, he noted, adding that without having a comprehensive data base, it is impossible to meet the specific needs of growing customer demand.

He says it is also important for marketers to make available customer touch points across marketing, sales and services as each of these departments were not aware of what was happening in other departments and vice versa.

"We have to optimise all those interactions, inbound and outbound, with all brands, products and across all the different communication channels. This is not simple to do, but the technology is there to enable it, he says.

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The Star Online: Sports

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Ferrari and Red Bull withdraw from FOTA

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 04:53 PM PST

LONDON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - World champions Red Bull and rivals Ferrari will withdraw from the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) after failure to reach agreement over cost cutting measures. Ferrari said in a statement on Friday the organisation's "drive has run its course".

The decision will leave FOTA, created to represent a united front in negotiations with commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the governing FIA, with just nine of the 12 teams.

Strugglers Hispania (HRT) pulled out last January, saying it no longer made sense for them to be members, although FOTA said the Spanish-based team had failed to pay their membership dues.

"Red Bull Racing can confirm it has served notice to withdraw from FOTA," the team of double world champion Sebastian Vettel said in a statement just five days after the end of the season in Brazil.

"The team will remain committed to finding a solution regarding cost saving in Formula One."

Ferrari, whose president Luca di Montezemolo was FOTA's first president, said they had also given notice.

"Ferrari has informed FOTA president Martin Whitmarsh that it is leaving the organisation," the Italian team said on their website (www.ferrari.com).

"It (the decision) was taken reluctantly after analysing the current situation and the stalemate when it came to debate on some issues that were at the core of why the association was formed," said Ferrari.

"FOTA's drive has run its course, despite the excellent work of... Whitmarsh in trying to reach agreement between the various positions for the common good."

Ferrari said they would work with the other teams to make the cost-cutting Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) "more effective and efficient".

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McDowell leads at Sun City despite air shot

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 04:50 PM PST

SUN CITY, South Africa, Dec 2 (Reuters) - World number 14 Graeme McDowell snatched a one-stroke lead in the Sun City Challenge on Friday despite playing an air shot during his second round at the $5 million invitational event.

The 2010 U.S. Open champion fired a five-under-par 67 for a seven-under tally of 137, one ahead of world number three Lee Westwood (70), fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer (68), American Jason Dufner (68) and Swede Robert Karlsson (69).

McDowell picked up four birdies in five holes around the turn but found a bush off the tee at the par-five 14th.

His club then bounced off a rock as he attempted to hack his ball back on to the fairway at the Gary Player Country Club.

McDowell made it to the fairway with his third shot but his fourth landed in a bunker and he eventually took a double-bogey seven.

However, the 32-year-old Briton hit back in style by sinking 20-foot birdie putts at the 16th and 18th.

"It was a very calm and quiet front nine and an exciting back nine," McDowell told reporters. "I tugged my drive on 14, I was kind of trying to steer it down there but pulled it into the bush.

"Then I made contact about an inch behind the ball, hit the rock and my club just bounced right over the top. It was interesting because my caddie called it before I hit the shot, he said, 'Be careful your club does not bounce off that rock'."

Dufner, making his debut in the elite 12-man tournament, was pleased with his position.

"It is a bit of a learning curve for me but I think I am learning pretty well as we go," Dufner told reporters.

"I was on the right side of the holes and was able to attack some of them."

U.S. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, the only South African in the field, struggled to a 74 for 142 after making a double-bogey six at the eighth where he lost his ball off the tee.

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Cricket-Kohli, Sharma take India to comfortable win

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 04:47 PM PST

VISAKHAPATNAM, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Virat Kohli compiled his eighth hundred in one-dayers and with able support from Rohit Sharma took India to a comfortable five-wicket victory against West Indies in the second one-day international on Friday.

Chasing 270 for victory, Kohli (117) and Sharma (90 not out) batted with a lot of maturity and added 163 for the fourth wicket to give India a 2-0 lead in the five-match ODI series against the tourists.

Man-of-the-match Kohli hit 14 boundaries before edging a catch behind with India still 23 away from the win.

But Sharma, who brought up his second consecutive half-century in the series, kept his calm to take India home with 11 balls to spare.

India lost Parthiv Patel and Gautam Gambhir early but Kohli and captain Virender Sehwag (26) added 55 for the third wicket to steady the ship.

The visitors were still in the hunt after Sehwag departed trying to clear off-spinner Marlon Samuels over the long-off boundary and India were reduced to 84-3.

But the stand between Kohli and Sharma put paid to their hopes of levelling the series.

Earlier, tailender Ravi Rampaul blasted his way to an unbeaten 86 from the number 10 position to deny India's hopes of restricting West Indies to a far lower total.

The left-hander hit six fours and six sixes in his 66-ball innings to lift West Indies to 269 for nine.

Rampaul, whose highest score in ODIs before this match was an unbeaten 26, added 99 in 14 overs for the unbroken final wicket with Kemar Roach (24 not out).

Pace duo Umesh Yadav (3-38) and R. Vinay Kumar (2-43) picked up the first five wickets to fall, reducing the visitors to 63-5, before opener Lendl Simmons (78) and Kieron Pollard (35) stemmed the rot with a 56-run stand for the sixth wicket.

Simmons anchored the innings with his patient 102-ball knock but was run out with West Indies on 170 and with just the last pair left to bat.

The third ODI will be played in Ahmedabad on Monday.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

'Muppets' set to win slow box office this weekend

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 06:27 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - With no new films opening wide on what is typically the slowest moviegoing weekend of the year, the one after Thanksgiving, Disney's ''The Muppets'' is expected to finish No. 1 at the domestic box office.

Entering its second weekend, ''The Muppets'' has already grossed $44.4 million. The PG reboot is predicted to take in around $20 million this weekend.

Expected to finish a close second in its third weekend, Summit Entertainment's ''Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1'' passed the $500 million mark at the global box office just this past week. It should challenge ''The Muppets'' for the No. 1 spot this time around.

Meanwhile, the GK Films/Paramount family movie ''Hugo'' is expanding from 1,277 locations to around 1,800 theaters, but is only expected to bring in around $8 million. The PG-rated 3D film, directed by Martin Scorsese and produced at a cost of more than $150 million, grossed just $15.3 million over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Also marketing a PG movie that had a slow start over the holiday, Sony and Aardman are hoping for an uptick for ''Arthur Christmas'' after it opened up to just $16.3 million.

With no movies entering wide release, much of the attention at this weekend's box office will be on the pre-Oscar arthouse circuit.

And the indie film with the biggest buzz is Fox Searchlight's ''Shame,'' Steve McQueen's NC-17-rated movie about sexual addiction. Starring Michael Fassbender, ''Shame'' opens Friday in 10 theaters in the U.S. and one in Canada.

Fassbender's performance - and nudity - have generated a great deal of press for the film. And reviews have been strong, with ''Shame'' registering an 82 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes as of late-afternoon Thursday.

''With all the publicity that we've received, I think it's going to be terrific,'' said Sheila DeLoach, executive VP of distribution at Fox Searchlight.

A distribution executive at a rival studio projected that the movie will gross between $125,000 and $150,000, which would be a strong limited debut.

Fox Searchlight has another significant indie in the weekend mix - the holdover ''The Descendants.'' That R-rated movie, directed by Alexander Payne and starring George Clooney, is expanding from 433 to 574 theaters in its third week of release.

The film has already grossed more than $12.4 million after two weekends of limited play. And it grossed more than $1.5 million from Monday through Wednesday this week.

Other specialty movies opening this weekend include Roadside Attractions' ''Answers to Nothing,'' starring Dane Cook and Barbara Hershey, and IFC's ''Sleeping Beauty.'' The foreign films ''I Am Singh'' from Reliance, ''Pastorela'' from Lionsgate and ''Outrage'' from Magnolia, also open Friday.

Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, told TheWrap that the company is hoping to establish ''Answers to Nothing'' on a weekend when there aren't a lot of other movies for the adult audience that are opening. ''We're optimistic,'' he said.

Among indie holdovers, leading Oscar contender ''The Artist'' will add two more engagements in its second weekend of play, bringing its theater count to six.

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The Star Online: Nation

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Indonesian maids coming by early March

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 07:38 AM PST

JAKARTA: Indonesia on Friday officially withdrew its moratorium on sending housemaids to Malaysia, but said it would take at least another three months before the first batch of maids arrives in Malaysia.

Indonesian Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, Muhaimin Iskandar who made the announcement on lifting the temporary ban said the period was required to carry out all processes involved in this informal sector, in accordance with the stipulated regulations.

"Today, the Indonesian govermment officially withdrew the moratorium, but the process of placement takes time and the maids can only be sent to Malaysia by early March, 2012," he said in a statement Friday.

Muhaimin said the placement of Indonesian maids in Malaysia would be entirely up to the employment agencies as the implementing agencies of private Indonesian manpower (PPTKIS), according to the regulations.

The period of three months is to enable the PPTKIS to supply the candidates from the requests made, to recruit and provide 200 hours of training, to process the official documents and to despatch the maids to Malaysia.

Muhaimin said the Indonesian government would be monitoring closely all the processes involved and would not hesitate to withdraw the operation licence of any employment agency found flouting the regulations.

"At least 117 PPTKIS are prepared to send Indonesian maids to work in Malaysia.

"They have signed a contract to incorporate the details of the amended memorandum of understanding between Indonesia and Malaysia on the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Domestic Workers," he said.

The minister also clarified that according to the regulations, there were 15 levels of placement processes that were compulsory for the workers and employment agencies, including obtaining a letter of recruitment issued by his ministry.

"The recruitment process will take three weeks, candidate document preparation (one week), medical examination (two days), 200 hours' of training (three to four weeks), passport application (one week), delivery of candidate biodata to Malaysian agency (three days) and employer search (one month)," he said. - Bernama

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Flash floods hit Kajang town centre

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 07:33 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Part of the Kajang town centre was hit by flash floods following heavy rain Friday evening.

Nine people, including three senior citizens were plucked to safety after their houses in Kajang were flooded after heavy rainfall.

All the victims were from Kampung Sg Kantan and Jalan Kelapa.

A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said the flash floods started about 5.30pm after Sungai Langat and Sungai Semenyih, which run through the town, broke their banks.

The affected areas included Jalan Bukit, Jalan Reko, Jalan Semenyih, Jalan Kg Sg Kantan and Jalan Sg Jelok.

"The water was gushing from the rivers and rose very fast. In less than 10 minutes, part of the town was flooded. Many cars parked along the roads in the affected areas were submerged," he said.

He said the water level was more than 1-metre deep in some places.

The spokesman said there were no casualties reported so far.

A Kajang police spokesman said traffic heading towards the town came almost to a standstill with many motorists caught in a bumper-to-bumper crawl as police closed the main road leading to the affected areas due to safety reasons.

Policemen were also deployed to divert and control the traffic.

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Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz apologises for leeches comment

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 05:36 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: President of Ideas Tunku 'Abidin Muhriz apologised Friday for remarks he had made in his article that was published in the column Roaming Beyond the Fence.

"I would like to apologise for the misunderstanding caused by my comment pertaining to leeches at PWTC this week.

"Although I clearly restricted the analogy to "some" individuals, several quarters have interpreted my comment as applying to all those participating in the Umno General Assembly. This is most unfortunate.

"Anyone who has been reading my articles over the past three years will know that I admire and deeply respect many Umno leaders," Tunku Abidin said in a statement.

He was criticised at the Umno general assembly for implying that some of the delegates were leeches

"So, when I implied that leeches had penetrated the party, it was out of a sense of disappointment, not of an intrinsic hatred of the party, as has been suggested."

Tunku Abidin pointed out that he had deep respect for Umno leaders like Datuk Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn

"Most recently, I have consistently praised the efforts of Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah in fighting for further democracy and freedom for all Malaysians.

"Furthermore, I have been consistent in congratulating the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for his courageous attempts to reform the country under the Government Transformation Programme and Economic Transformation Programme."

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin welcomed Tunku Abidin's apology as well as the clarification on his stand.

"It was not fair of him to make a generalised statement against Umno," said the Rembau MP.

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City Watch

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 03:47 AM PST


The Public Affairs office of the US Embassy is inviting photographers, photo-enthusiasts and students to join them for a free seminar with internationally acclaimed photojournalist Justin Mott on Dec 4 at 2.30pm at Pusat Rakyat Loyar Burok, 4th Floor, 3-4, Jalan Bangsar Utama 3, Bangsar. Entrance is free. It is managed by Hallway Events, in cooperation with the Public Affairs office, US Embassy. For details, e-mail: cheryl@hallwayevents.com.


Sri Kota Specialist Medical Centre in Klang will organise health-related and fun-filled activities with Upin & Ipin on Dec 10 from 9am to noon. There will be a colouring competition for children aged between six years and nine and "Little Chef" competition for those aged 10 and 11. Early registration will entitle them to free goodie bags, attractive prizes and meals. Admission is free. Pre-register before Dec 5. For details, call 03-3373 3636 ext 7313/7335/7356.

Jumble Sale

Crime and Investigation Network will be hosting a Crime Prevention Workshop at One Utama Shopping Centre tomorrow. The workshop is to educate the public on how to be safe especially during this joyous season. The talk will be held at 11am, ground floor main entrance. For details visit http://www.citvasia.com/.

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Ragunathan emerges as Mr Little India 2011

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 03:47 AM PST

IT WAS a victorious day for body builder Ragunathan Nithiyanan-tham as he clinched the Mr Little India Classic 2011 above 70kg title recently.

The 25-year-old Johorian is no newcomer in the body building arena but it was his first title after several attempts at the Mr Johor competition.

Inspired five years ago by his neighbour Muhammad Azam, 32, Ragunathan decided to join the Mr Johor competition.

"I used to watch him walk past my house each day, but I never knew he was so famous until my first competition. He won the title and I came in fourth in 2007," he said.

Today Azam is Ragunathan's coach and they encourage each other to excel in the sport.

Ragunathan said the sport is not an easy one and requires three main ingredients to be successful — discpline, self-confidence and self-motivation.

Ragunathan was one of the 40 hopefuls who joined a body building competition that was held in front of the Sri Paandi Restaurant in Little India, Brickfields.

The event was jointly organised by MIC Youth, the Malaysian Body Builders Association and Sun Fitness and Gym.

MIC National Youth Secretary P. Punithan said they hoped to encourage young Indians who enjoy the sport but do not have a platform.

To achieve this, they included a junior category for those below 21 and the novice title for those who had never taken part in any competition.

"We want to encourage new talent and give them an avenue to gain experience," he added.

There were four titles and five finalists for each category were chosen to parade for the last time in front of a street full of spectators and judges.

Also present at the event were Deputy Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk M. Saravanan and MIC Youth Chief T. Mohan as well as Malaysian body builders Sazali Samad, Wong Ngai Heong (Wong Hong), Osman Yahya and veteran A. Arokiasamy.

In an attempt to boost the sport, Saravanan has pledged his support for the event next year and will enlist the help of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin.

"This event will definitely bring in the crowd to Little India. I have spoken to Mohan and will also bring it up to the Minister for funds to assist them," he said.

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Johor spends RM100mil on flood mitigation projects over seven years

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 05:30 PM PST

BATU PAHAT: The Johor government had spent RM100mil over the last seven years to deepen and widen four rivers in the district as part of the flood mitigation effort.

Penggaram assemblyman Datuk Koh Chee Chai said the project started in 2004 and completed last year.

It involved works in Simpang Kanan River, Simpang Kiri River, Bekok River and and Batu Pahat River.

"Now, we expect flood to reduce to minimum, however, all the relevant authorities and government agencies are still in high alert for any emergency," he after an annual year end dialogue organised by Sub-district Coordinator Committee (JPMM) in Penggaram contituency held at Chinese Chamber of Commerce building on Tuesday evening.

Koh said besides rivers, the state government had also upgraded drainage in the town since 1999.

Some RM70mil was spent to upgrade Jalan Sultanah underground drain as well as drains in Jalan Bakau Condong and Parit Dhobi, he added.

Problems of two flood prone areas — Tanah Merah in Jalan Kluang and Taman Mewah behind the Batu Pahat Hospital - also been solved, Koh added.

In a separate development, Koh said a total of RM50mil were also spent over the last eight years to upgrade roads in various residential areas in town.

"Those tamans are more than 40 and 50 years and many roads in the residential areas need to be repaired and resurfaced," he said.

The dialogue event was attended by police and council representatives as well as seven village heads, 42 branch representativies from Barisan Nasional companent parties under the Penggaram constituency.

Koh said the event was held to discuss local issues and ways to improve infrastructures and social life in participants' respective housing areas or villages.

Issues brought up during the dialogue, including needs to upgrade roads and bridges in certain villages, handling of waste, street lights, drainage and others.

"All the issues have been recorded and would brought up to the respective government agencies and council," he added.

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Farmers to get RM110mil in yield incentive arrears

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 05:31 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar said 73,291 paddy farmers throughout the country are set to receive RM110 million in arrears under the increased paddy yield incentive, in stages starting next month.

Speaking after the launch of the MD2 Kulim Malaysia Berhad pineapple plantation project in Ladang Ulu Tiram, Johor, he said an initial group of 1,000 farmers in Selangor would receive the payment in three phases, starting Dec 4.

"The incentive is paid to farmers who successfully increased their paddy yield since 2007," he said.

"An increase of one metric tonne in yield qualifies the farmer to an incentive of RM650," he added saying an increase of 10 tonnes would qualify for RM1,300.

On Nov 27, Noh Omar made an assurance that his ministry would pay the paddy yield incentive arrears to the farmers who had qualified for it.

He explained that the ministry could not effect the payments earlier as it had not confirmed the exact number of farmers involved.

The recent 2010 Auditor-General's Report stated that the ministry had yet to pay RM110.67 million in paddy yield incentives to 73,291 farmers since 2007. — Bernama

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Research on how to save mangrove forests, NGO urged

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 05:30 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: A non-governmental organisation (NGO) urged proper studies to be conducted to save mangrove forests especially in Tanjung Piai and Pulau Kukup in Pontian.

Malaysian Nature Society Johor branch chairman Vincent Chow said that the situation of mangrove forests especially in Tanjung Piai are quite worryingly.

He explained that it is never too late to save the mangrove forests and the state government should conduct proper studies that would benefit the rehabilitation of mangrove forests in the long run.

"The new method by the state national parks of mixing mangrove seedlings with sawdust onto soil could prove successful in a short term.

"However, the area along the coastline is widely used by vessels where the shipping waves and sea waves have destroyed the mangroves," he said adding that such method may not be the smart way to save the mangroves forest.

Chow also urged the state government to look back into the proposal to create a man-made island as a barrier to the strong waves.

"Besides becoming a barrier, the man-made island could also help improve the livelihood of the local fishermen and its ecosystem.

"Due to oil spills and constant pollution in the area, it has caused the numbers of fish and prawns to decrease," he said adding that the man-made island could also help reclaim some lands lost due to the depleting numbers of mangroves.

It was recently reported that the state's mangrove forests are being depleted at a rate of 5,000 trees a year due to pollution and oil spills.

The poor state of mangrove forests in Tanjung Piai had been identified and highlighted in the 2010 Auditor-General's report.

The report also identified that sawdust which was acidic and contained heavy metals had caused the mangroves to die.

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