Rabu, 7 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Killer of Australian mob boss gets 32 years in jail

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 09:17 PM PST

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An Australian prisoner who beat to death a mob boss with a pole and then dragged his body back to his cell was sentenced to 32 years in jail on Thursday, with the judge condemning the man's prison code belief that he had a right to kill.

Mobster Carl "Baby Face" Williams was serving four life sentences for murder during a gangland war in Australia's second largest city Melbourne, but had turned informant in jail.

Prisoner Matthew Johnson said he killed Williams in 2010 in self-defence, but a jail camera showed Johnson approached Williams from behind and beat him over the head with a pole from a prison exercise bike.

Williams, who was reading a story about himself in a newspaper at the time of the attack, was then dragged back to his cell.

In passing sentence, Victorian Supreme Court Judge Lex Lasry said Johnson was the "General" of a prison gang called the "Prisoners of War" who hated anyone assisting police, local media reported.

During Johnson's trial in September, the court heard Williams bragged to fellow prisoners of his involvement in at least 15 murders, three of which he said he had committed.

"It was a killing which appears to demonstrate your belief that you have some special entitlement to kill when you think it appropriate or your ego demands it according to some meaningless underworld prison code," said Lasry.

"I am left with no choice but to punish what you have done with an appropriately heavy sentence," he said, ordering a 32 year sentence without parole.

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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U.S. citizen jailed for insulting Thai monarchy

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 09:15 PM PST

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A U.S. citizen was jailed for two-and-a-half years Thursday for insulting the Thai monarchy, prompting the U.S. Embassy to speak out at the severity of the sentence and say it supported the freedom of expression everywhere in the world.

Thai-born Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 55, had pleaded guilty in October to using the Internet to disseminate information that insulted the monarchy, charges stemming from material posted on his blog in the United States, where he has citizenship.

Lerpong Wichaikhammat, who goes by the name of Joe Gordon, gestures as he waits in a prison cell at the Bangkok Criminal Court December 8, 2011. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

He was arrested in May during a visit to Thailand.

"The defendant is found guilty ... The court sentenced him to five years in prison. But he pleaded guilty. That makes the case easier, so the court decided to cut it in half to 2 years and six months," a judge said at the criminal court in Bangkok.

Thailand has the world's toughest lese-majeste laws protecting its monarch. The number of cases has jumped in recent years and sentences have become harsher, coinciding with a period of political turbulence in the country.

Lerpong's lawyer, Anon Nampa, said there would be no appeal against the verdict. "One month from now, we'll submit a request for a royal pardon," he added.

Other foreigners who have fallen foul of the lese-majeste law in recent years have tended to spend a short period in jail before being pardoned. Thais have not got off so lightly, one recently getting 20 years for text messages deemed offensive.

Elisabeth Pratt, consul general at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, said Joe Gordon -- the name Lerpong goes by -- was an American citizen and would continue to get consular help.

"We're very concerned over the severity of the sentence that has been imposed on Joe Gordon. We support the freedom of expression here in Thailand and internationally throughout the world," she told reporters at the court.

Lerpong was also accused of providing a web link to a biography by an American author of 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej that is banned in Thailand, where many people regard the king as almost divine.

Before the verdict was read out, Lerpong was allowed to speak to reporters.

"I'm not Thai, I'm American. I was just born in Thailand. I hold an American passport. In Thailand there are many laws that don't allow you to express opinions but we don't have that in America," he said.

Critics say the law is being abused to discredit activists and politicians.

The generals who overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 cited his alleged disrespect for the monarchy among other reasons.

"Personally I don't know Thaksin and usually I don't get involved in politics," Lerpong said. "I'm proud to be American."

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Jutarat Skulpichetrat and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Rights group urges Yemen to ban child marriage

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 09:12 PM PST

DUBAI (Reuters) - Human Rights Watch urged Yemen's government on Thursday to ban marriages of girls under the age of 18, warning it deprives child brides - often forced to wed much older men - of education and harms their health.

The New York-based group said the political paralysis born of 10 months of protests aimed at ousting President Ali Abdullah Saleh had drawn attention away from the phenomenon of child marriage, but that Yemen's government must address it.

"Girls should not be forced to be wives and mothers," Nadya Khalife, the author of a 54-page report entitled: "How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?," said in a statement.

"The government...needs to show that it has the political will to do this by adopting this law," she told Reuters, calling for a law to set 18 as the minimum age for marriage.

"As Yemen undergoes political change, leaders should seize the opportunity to correct an injustice that does enormous harm and set the country on a new course of social justice, including equality for women and girls," Khalife's statement said.

Saleh last month signed a deal brokered by Yemen's richer Gulf neighbours aimed at averting civil war. It stipulates he formally renounce his powers, and that an interim government lead the country to a presidential vote in February.

Quoting United Nations and government data, HRW said nearly 14 percent of Yemeni girls were married before the age of 15 and 52 percent before the age of 18. The group says many Yemeni child-brides-to-be are kept from school when they reach puberty.

The report also said bearing children at a young age caused lasting reproductive health problems.

In 2009, a group of conservative Yemeni lawmakers blocked legislation setting the minimum age for marriage at 17, arguing the bill contradicted Islamic law.

Child marriage in Yemen drew international attention last year, when a 13-year-old Yemeni girl died from internal bleeding after intercourse with a spouse twice her age, and a Yemeni girl published a translated account of her marriage at age 9 to a man three times her age.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Alec Baldwin apologises - sort of - for airplane meltdown

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 06:04 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: What do you call it when someone pretends to apologise, and seems to be apologising, but in reality is doing the exact opposite of apologising?

Oh yeah - that's Alec Baldwin explaining his incident on an American Airlines flight Tuesday.

The ''30 Rock'' star - who abandoned his Twitter account Wednesday following the air-travel flap - used the Huffington Post as his megaphone instead Wednesday afternoon, penning an apology that managed to insult the entire airline industry.

The title of Baldwin's screed - ''A Farewell to Common Sense, Style, and Service on American Airlines'' - offers the first indication that this won't be a hat-in-hand affair.

''First off, I would like to apologise to the other passengers onboard the American Airlines flight that I was thrown off of yesterday,'' Baldwin wrote. ''It was never my intention to inconvenience anyone with my 'issue' with a certain flight attendant.''

The actor goes on to admit that he was asked to put his phone away multiple times by an attendant as passengers waited for the plane to pull away from the gate at Los Angeles International Airport.

Though he does note that other passengers also had their phones out, and opines that he was ''singled out'' by the airline attendant. And that's pretty much the end of anything remotely resembling an acceptance of blame.

''It's no secret that the level of service on U.S. carriers has deteriorated to a point that would make Howard Hughes red-faced,'' Baldwin wrote, citing rising costs for airlines.

''Filthy planes, barely edible meals, cuts in jet service to less-traveled locations. One of the big changes, in my time, is in the increase of the post-9/11, paramilitary bearing of much of the air travel business.

"September 11th was a horrific day in the airline industry, yet in the wake of that event, I believe carriers and airports have used that as an excuse to make the air travel experience as inelegant as possible.''

As for the flight attendants themselves? ''[T]here are many now who walk the aisles of an airplane with a whistle around their neck and a clipboard in their hands, and they have made flying a Greyhound bus experience,'' Baldwin opines.

''The lesson I've learned is to keep my phone off when the 1950's gym teacher is on duty. That was my fault there, even though this trip was quite a bit different from so many others,'' Baldwin concludes.

''But it is sad, I think, that you've got to fly overseas today in order to bring back what has been thrown overboard by U.S. carriers in terms of common sense, style, and service.''

Baldwin claimed Tuesday on his Twitter account that a flight attendant harassed him while he was playing the Zynga game Words With Friends on his phone.

According to a crew member on the flight, however, Baldwin was thrown off the flight after becoming ''violent, abusive and aggressive,'' banging on the walls of the plane's lavatory with such force that the flight's captain intervened.

American Airlines confirmed this account in a statement, adding that Baldwin was ''extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language.''

According to Baldwin's spokesperson, the actor was booked onto another American Airlines flight and spent Wednesday filming ''30 Rock.''

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Contending five

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 01:27 AM PST

Five rookie deejays have to prove their mettle to stay on air.

BEFORE we bid farewell to the year, 988 is bringing in a new group of rookie deejays to the Chinese broadcasting scene. After the preliminary rounds where more than 500 candidates were auditioned by the radio station, five promising ones were picked.

Now, more stringent tests await them before they become an official 988 DJ.

For three consecutive weeks, Estee Leong, Woon Kar Loon, Low Pooi Lai, Teddy Chin and Shir Chong will be "tested" by the station's well-known deejays KK and Cheryl in their programme KK Vs Cheryl.

In the first week, the contenders co-host popular segments like KK & Cheryl Go Travel, where their skills and talents are put to the test. In the second week, contenders will be assessed on their "bond and partnership" with DJ KK.

In the third and final week, the ranking status of the contenders, based on their performance, will be revealed.

During these three weeks, 988 listeners are welcome to take part in the selection process via 988 Facebook page and SMS. Give your favourite contender a "like", pointers or words of encouragement. Be part of the buzz!

Out of the five, who will step into DJ Cheryl's hot seat? The well-liked Cheryl will be leaving the station on Dec 23. Together with 988, let's handpick the deserving candidate to join the stations's line-up of elite deejays.

For more information, click www.988.com.my.

988 is operated by The Star.

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Beng Hee not interested in training under newly-appointed Genever

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 06:13 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: National number two Ong Beng Hee is not interested in training under newly-appointed national elite coach Peter Genever.

Englishman Genever will begin his job early next month after being hired by the National Sports Council (NSC) to train the national back-up and elite players.

Beng Hee said yesterday he would return to London to train under renowned coach David Pearson at the Harrogate Club.

"I have been training under him for a few years now. I feel more comfortable with him.

"I am also happy to train under Jamshed (Gul of Pakistan) here. But sadly, his contract, which expires end of this month, is not extended," said the 31-year-old Beng Hee.

For Beng Hee, his immediate aim is to arrest his decline in form. The four-time Asian champion and two-time Asian Games gold medallist was ranked 18 in the world last December but has dropped to 34 this month.

To date, he has yet to get beyond the first round in a number of tournaments. In May, Beng Hee was sent packing by Tarek Momen of Egypt in the opening round of Hurghada International in Egypt.

He was no better off in September, losing to Egypt's Ali Anwar Reda at the British Grand Prix. A month later, he lost to Peter Barker of England at the Qatar Classic.

And last month in the World Championships in Rotterdam, he lost to team-mate Mohd Azlan Iskandar. Beng Hee will compete in another tournament – the Punj Lloyd Masters in New Delhi – before he ends his season. The tournament begins on Monday and Beng Hee has Azlan as his opponent in the first round.

"I'm probably going through the worst season of my career.

"And now I face yet another tough hurdle against Azlan in New Delhi," said Beng Hee, a professional since 1999.

"Although my performance and ranking have dropped significantly, I am not about to give up. I will train much harder and rectify all my mistakes. I hope to break into the top 20 next year.

"I will turn 32 in a couple of months but I will continue playing squash as long as I can," said Beng Hee, a winner of 11 Professional Squash Association (PSA) titles.

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SRAM working on changing dates of national junior meet

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 06:14 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) may be forced to change the dates for the National Junior Championships following the poor response for the girls' and boys' Under-19 events.

In the just-concluded championships, only three girls competed in the event while seven players competed in the boys' category.

Tan Yan Xin (pic), Malaysia's number one junior, easily claimed the girls' crown in the round-robin format.

Mohd Addeen Idrakie, the number one junior, was conspicuously missing as he was sitting for his year-end Sijil Pelajaran Malaysian (SPM) examination. In his absence, Affeeq Abedeen emerged as champion.

There was, however, good response in the other categories – the girls and boys' Under-11, Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17.

SRAM secretary general and general manager Christopher Brodie said there were plans to change the dates of the championship.

"The participation in the Under-19 categories was poor because the dates clashed with the SPM examination. Besides that, there is due a rule stating that the players must play in their own age category," said Christopher.

"I have suggested that the next championship be held in January, starting in 2013. But not all the states are receptive to the idea. We need further discussions before it can be done," he added.

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PM to garland 4x400m gold medal winners

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 06:14 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The four runners who had to miss their prize presentation ceremony after winning the 4x400m relay at the SEA Games in Palembang will be garlanded with their gold medals by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tomorrow.

The quartet, who ran the race of their life to upstage favourites Indonesia and Thailand to win the gold medal, had to return home without receiving their medals after the presentation was postponed to the next day by the organisers.

National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Zolkples Embong said Najib would garland the medals on S. Kannathasan, P. Yuvaraj, Schzuan Ahmad Rosely and Mohd Yunus La Salleh during the incentives award ceremony for SEA Games medal winners at Stadium Juara, Bukit Kiara, tomorrow.

"This is a special 'incentive' for the quartet for missing the prize presentation in Palembang," Zolkples said.

He said Najib had consented to give away the prizes while a number of Cabinet ministers are also expected to be at the ceremony.

Zolkples said 91 gold medal winners, including the football team, would receive incentives amounting to RM629,996.

In the 26th edition of the SEA Games hosted by Indonesia, Malaysia won 59 gold, 50 silver and 82 bronze medals.

Aquatics was the biggest contributor with 19 golds followed by athletics (6), bowling (5), waterskiing (4), karate (4), wushu (3), silat (4), cycling (6), archery (2), shooting (2), fencing (2) billiards and snooker (1) and football (1). — Bernama

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

DRB-HICOM, Volkswagen likely to share control in Proton

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 03:58 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: DRB-HICOM Bhd's bid for control over Proton Holdings Bhd is likely to include the presence of Volkswagen AG at a later stage, a reliable source said.

DRB-HICOM's plan is to first secure a controlling block in Proton.

But at a later stage or second phase of the deal, DRB would divest some of its equity to Volkswagen, resulting in both parties sharing control and management in Proton, the source said.

Such a structure could make the deal more desirable, considering that it moved away from the prospects of Proton falling into the hands of a foreign party, an issue which was likely to have been part of the reasons why previous attempts by Volkswagen to buy into Proton were scuttled.

Volkswagen declined to comment while DRB-HICOM could not be reached for comment.

The market is rife with speculation that Khazanah Nasional Bhd has received a number of bids for a controlling stake in Proton. Khazanah owns 42.7% in Proton.

Another source close to the matter said Khazanah had yet to make a decision on the Proton deal and that meetings would be held this week between key stakeholders to discuss the matter.

The source also said there was a possibility that the sale of the stake in Proton might be called off temporarily.

"Whatever the case, there is likely to be more clarity within the next few weeks on whether a deal is going to take place," said the source.

Khazanah was in negotiations with Volkswagen AG, but the talks broke down in late 2007.

DRB-HICOM had previously approached Proton in 2009 and formally submitted a bid to buy 32% of Proton shares.

After the talks with Proton broke down, Volkswagen partnered instead with DRB-HICOM in late 2010 to assemble and manufacture Volkswagen vehicles in Malaysia.

Proton shares have been actively traded in recent days on speculation that Khazanah was poised to divest its stake inthe national carmaker.

Some insiders reckoned that bidders might only be interested to own less than 33% stake in Proton, which meant that minority shareholders would not get bought out in the deal.

Volkswagen's involvement in Proton may also make DRB-HICOM's deal more attractive, considering that analysts have stated that what Proton needed was a partnership with an established auto manufacturer with technological capabilities.

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CEO sets in motion business plan to bring airline to profitability by 2013

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 03:57 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will cut unprofitable routes, spin off its ancillary units, explore joint ventures with other airlines and launch a regional carrier by second half of next year in a bid to return to profitability by 2013.

The airline, which will focus on offering premium air services, targets a net loss of RM165mil for 2012. However, by 2016 it hopes to report a net profit of RM900mil.

About 40% of MAS' network is unprofitable but beginning next year it would cut capacity by 12% and save about RM302mil by suspending flights to Dubai, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and some European cities.

It would focus on serving the premium market in Asia where there is growth despite the intense competition from low-cost and premium carriers that are also adding capacity in the region.

"We are very deep in crisis. Our cumulative losses until the third quarter amounted to RM1.25bil and we do not see any improvements in the fourth quarter. MAS needs to make hard and unpopular decisions simply to survive. We hope this plan will set the course straight," MAS group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a press conference yesterday. The new business plan that he unveiled yesterday focused on reversing the airlines' fortunes and outlined steps to sustain its performance.

He cited the loss of focus of the premium segment, declining product quality, an ageing fleet as reasons why MAS was in a loss-making situation. The airline's overall ranking in the industry had also dropped but with the new business plan, there would be greater focus to win the customers back.

Ahmad Jauhari said the series of actions that the airline would take next year was expected to generate an improvement of between RM1.1bil and RM1.5bil in the profit impact for the group.

On the new premium carrier - not Sapphire he said it would begin operations in the second half of 2012 with a fleet of 45 B737-800 aircraft. It would fly to cities in South-East Asia and Greater China while MAS would continue to serve long-haul flights. It planned to add frequency to cities like Manila, Jakarta and Tokyo.

This is the fourth time in a decade that MAS is being restructured, though the theme this time is be a leaner airline, but some analysts attending the briefing were unimpressed.

"It seems their consultants did the work for them and we are disheartened by the fact that the management only aspiresfor RM900mil net profit when benchmarked against first-tier airline, they should be aiming for RM2bil to RM3bil," said an analyst.

A Maybank Investment analyst added: "It is a strategic mistake to set up a new airline when they could service the short-haul routes using the MAS brand name. Why the need to gamble when there is no guarantee of immediate success? However, what is convincing is that they are suspending flights to unprofitable destinations."

MAS has also begun discussions with AirAsia and AirAsia X to cooperate on fuel-purchasing, maintenance, training and ground-handling, which could save the national carrier RM100mil annually.

On the rationale to spin the ancillary units engineering, pilot training/safety academy, cargo and ground services Ahmad Jauhari said it was to allow strategic investors to take a stake in them so that the units could grow.

The airline will take delivery of 23 new aircraft including five A380 in 2012 and that would help the airline save RM392mil in cost since the new aircraft are more fuel efficient.

The airline also needed to raise RM12bil to pay for the new aircraft it had ordered till 2014 and it might finance them via debt and Islamic bonds but MAS deputy CEO Mohd Rashdan said the airline would not opt for a cash call.

MAS has cash reserves of RM1bil now but it expects return of aircraft deposits to help it ride through next year.

"We would not deny we are in talks with Qantas as these days you have to work with other airlines but the discussions are still at an exploratory stage," he said, adding that: "We are exploring the possibility of joint ventures with (other) partners in order to serve multiple markets together, while reducing the financial risks of going alone."

The airline will also join the oneworld air alliance by September 2012.

Asked if the MAS workforce was behind him in the push for better fortunes, Ahmad said: "They understand the gravity (of the problem) and are horrified by the losses, but they also understand that painful actions are necessary."

Asked if there would be job cuts, Ahmad said it depended on all the spin-offs but a (voluntary separation scheme) was the last option.

There is also apprehension towards the comprehensive collaboration framework from with AirAsia.

Asked if the CCF was really necessary, he said "it makes it easier with the CCF.''

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GM rejects Saab ownership plan

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 03:45 PM PST

Thursday December 8, 2011

DETROIT: General Motors Co says it will not support a proposed ownership structure for Saab that includes a Chinese bank, moving the Swedish car company closer to liquidation.

"We have reviewed Saab's proposed changes regarding the sale of the company," GM spokesman James Cain said in a statement. "Nothing in the proposal changes GM's position. We are unable to support the transaction." – Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Wishes come true

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 01:25 AM PST

Here is your chance to meet the stars from Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes as they embark on a series of roadshows throughout the country.

AH Beng The Movie: Three Wishes Roadshow targets 70 venues in Malaysia to drum up publicity in a bid to boost box office returns. Its titular star Jack Lim has also taken on the role of producing the Chinese New Year blockbuster Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes for the Year Of The Dragon.

The movie is an action comedy and there are two versions of the theme song and five versions of the movie posters created so far.

The main cast of the movie – Lim, Chen Keat Yoke, Gan Mei Yan, Royce Tan, Bernard Hiew, Vivian Tok, Wan Wai Fun and Gan Jiang Han – and other actors will take turns to tour at least 70 venues throughout the country, including cinemas, shopping malls and selected Bank Simpanan Negara (BSN) branches. (Bank Simpanan Nasional is the Official Bank of the movie.)

The nationwide promotional tour kicked off in Sabah and Sarawak last weekend and is set to go all the way up north and then down south of the Peninsula before wrapping up in the Klang Valley.

The places covered in the roadshows include Kuala Lumpur, Klang, Sunway, Sungai Petani, Penang, Perai, Taiping, Ipoh, Kuantan, Seremban, Malacca, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

The cast will be travelling in eight specially designed Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes Proton cars, namely the Persona, Inspira, Saga and Exora.

At these roadshows, a variety of merchandise will be available for sale, including the limited edition Ah Beng God of Fortune Figurine Set which consists of eight Ah Beng cartoon character ang pow packets, The Secret Book Of Ah Beng and an Ah Beng God of Fortune figurine.

Other merchandise available include Ah Beng The Movie photo book and Ah Beng Comic Magazine.

It is worth mentioning that the Ah Beng God of Fortune Figurine includes the 168 pieces of limited edition gold plated version and the 9,999 pieces of limited edition plastic version.

Fans can also get their Ah Beng merchandise autographed by the cast at the roadshows.

The plastic version of Ah Beng God of Fortune Figurine

Set is also available at Yat Beng Wor Restaurant located at Scott Garden, Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur.

The Ah Beng God of Fortune Limited Edition Money Bank will be given free to those who sign up for a minimum of RM1,000 of the Bank Simpanan Nasional's Sijil Simpanan Premium (SSP) at the BSN booth during the movie roadshows.

Roadshow schedule

Dec 9: Legenda Village Mall, Sungai Petani, Kedah (5pm)

Dec 10: Mega Cineplex, Seberang Prai Penang (2pm); Gurney Plaza, Penang (8.30pm)

Dec 11: 1st Avenue Penang (noon); Taiping Mall, Perak (4pm); Ipoh Parade, Perak (6.30pm); TGV Kinta City, Ipoh (8.30pm)

Dec 17: TGV Seremban 2, Negri Sembilan (noon); Malacca Jusco (4pm); Malacca Dataran Pahlawan, Malacca (8pm)

Dec 18: Johor Mall (KSL) (noon); TGV Tebrau City, Johor Baru (2pm); JB City Square (7pm)

Dec 23: TGV Metro Prima, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur (8pm)

Dec 24: GSC Mid Valley, Kuala Lumpur (noon); 1 Utama (New Wing), Petaling Jaya, Selangor (5pm); Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur (8pm)

Dec 25: Cheras Leisure Mall, Kuala Lumpur (6pm)

Dec 30: (3pm) East Coast Mall Kuantan, Pahang; (8.30pm) First World Plaza, Genting Highlands

Dec 31: KL Festival Mall, Setapak (2pm); Garden Expo Seri Kembangan, Kuala Lumpur (3.30pm); Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor (7pm)

n Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes opens in local cinemas on Jan 19, 2012.

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Harry Potter theme park to be built in Hollywood

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:09 PM PST

LOS ANGELES, (Reuters): Harry Potter is going Hollywood with a new theme park based at Universal Studios, NBCUniversal and film studio Warner Bros. said on Tuesday.

"The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" will be built inside Universal Studios Hollywood and feature attractions that are similar to the Potter theme park opened in June 2010 at Universal's resort in Orlando, Florida.

The new theme park could take 3-4 years to build and is likely to cost several hundred million dollars.

The two companies - Universal runs the theme parks and Warner Bros. owns the rights to the "Harry Potter" movies - also announced that the "Wizarding World" in Florida would be expanded.

The Hollywood park will be centered around a huge Hogwarts castle and feature rides and other attractions based on the adventures of the popular British boy wizard and his friends.

Author J.K Rowling's "Harry Potter" book series have sold some 450 million copies worldwide and the eight movies from the Warner Bros. studios have taken more than $7.7 billion at global box-offices, making Harry Potter the largest-grossing film franchise in history.

Officials did not say how many of the Florida rides would make their way to the Hollywood park, nor did they say if any new rides were envisaged. But they said the new attraction would be created with the same commitment to authenticity with the books and movies as the one in Florida.

Warner Bros. chairman Barry Meyer called Tuesday's announcement "probably the best holiday gift we could give to the legions of Harry Potter fans worldwide."

"Everyone involved with these projects is committed to continuing the enchantment of J.K. Rowling's masterful books as they were brought to life on screen in our eight films and dedicated to extending the magic of the experience for generations of fans to come," Meyer said.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Murky water in Sg Selangor due to river bank collapse

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 07:35 AM PST

Published: Wednesday December 7, 2011 MYT 11:35:00 PM

SHAH ALAM: Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said Wednesday that the cause of the water in Sungai Selangor to be murky, which had affected the operation of four water treatment plants on Monday, was a result of the bank collapse at several locations along Sungai Kerling.

"Investigation by Lembaga Urus Air Selangor (LUAS) detected the collapsed bank about two kilometres from the Sungai Kerling mini-hydro station near the Selangor-Pahang border," he told a media conference after chairing the state executive council meeting here.

He said there was activities, like sand mining or illegal logging detected in the area which could have caused the river bank to collapse.

It was believed that heavy rain could have caused the river bank to collapse, he added.

Abdul Khalid said LUAS and the relevant agencies and departments would continue to monitor the situation to avoid any untoward incident.

He said operations of the affected water treatment plants had also been restored. - Bernama

Related Stories:
Selangor probes source of Sungai Selangor pollution
Water quality improves, supply to Klang Valley back to normal

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Two schoolgirls ride into watery grave in Tunjang

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 05:47 AM PST

JITRA: Two teenage schoolgirls rode into a watery grave when the motorcycle they were on, skidded and plunged into a swollen canal in Pida 1, Tunjang here on Wednesday.

Wirda Izwaney Daud, 13, and her pillion rider, Amalina Adam, 14, were believed to have drowned in the metre-deep canal near the Tunjang Railway Station.

They sustained head and neck injuries in the mishap, which occurred about 11.30am.

The victims were pupils of the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Permatang Bonglai in Tunjang.

When contacted, Kubang Pasu police chief DSP Ibrahim Mohamed Yusof said Wirda's body was found on the motorcycle while Amalina's body was found about 20 metres away in the canal.

Amalina's sister-in-law, Hana Duramee, 39, a Thai, said the victim had left the house about 11am with Wirda Izwaney, without informing the family of her whereabouts.

"Wirda Izwaney arrived on a motorcycle and fetched Amalina. They did not inform us where they were heading to.

"I was shocked when a group of people came to my house about 1pm and broke the news that Amalina had drowned in the canal," she told reporters when met at the Jitra Hospital mortuary.

Hana said, Amalina, the youngest of nine siblings, would usually inform the family of her whereabouts.

A resident, Salleh Saad, 65, said he was enroute to his family home to deliver insecticides when he spotted two bodies afloat in the canal.

"I alerted other residents who retrieved the bodies," he said.

Witnesses are requested to contact investigating officer Insp Juhaisam Jusoh at 012-6186272 to facilitate investigations. - Bernama

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Syabas withdraws defamation action against Selangor MB

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 05:43 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) has withdrawn its defamation suit against Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim in the High Court.

According to Abdul Khalid's counsel, Firdaus Husni, Syabas withdrew their suit before Justice Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah after they achieved an agreement Wednesday.

Counsel for the plaintiff, S. Ravindran, told reporters the discussion began on Monday.

"Today, both parties were able to resolve the matter on terms which we have agreed to keep confidential," he said, declining to elaborate further on the terms of agreement.

In January, Syabas filed the suit against Abdul Khalid, claiming that he had uttered defamatory words against the firm in a press conference on Nov 22, last year, regarding its Tabung Budi programme.

In its statement of claim, Syabas said the defamatory remarks made by Khalid were published in an article entitled "Withdraw Syabas License - Khalid", which was published by Bernama on the same day, and Harian Metro on Nov 23.

Syabas said Abdul Khalid's statement could be understood to mean that Syabas had cheated the public with its Tabung Budi programme, and that the company was a hypocrite.

Syabas also claimed that Abdul Khalid's statement could be understood to mean that the water concessionaire was stealing money from the public.

As such, its reputation and commercial credit had been brought into public ridicule, and it had suffered injury to its trade and business.

It is claiming damages, with interest and cost, and other relief deemed fit by the court.

In his statement of defence, Abdul Khalid said that Syabas had no locus standi to file the defamation suit as it performed a public function, and that he was not responsible for the said press reports which were published by a third party.

He also claimed a defence of fair comment.

The matter went to trial on Nov 25, but it was resolved after two days of trial with four plaintiff witnesses called.

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Water in KL and Selangor safe to drink

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 03:59 AM PST

THERE will be no water supply disruption in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor as earlier indicated because the turbidity at the four treatment plants has improved.

In an earlier statement, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) reported that the production at the four plants declined to about 2,460mil litres to 1,000mil litres daily after recording extraordinary turbidity in Sungai Selangor.

The four water treatment plants — Sungai Selangor Phase 1, 2, 3 and Rantau Panjang — supply water to three million households in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

The Sungai Phase 1 treatment plant in Ijok, which recorded excessive turbidity on Monday has improved and is now safe for consumption.

A water supply disruption at this plant will affect 700,000 consumers in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

All the treatment plants draw water from Sungai Selangor. The overall turbidity of Sungai Selangor has dropped and is now much safer for treatment.

Sungai Phase 1 treatment plant operator Zahid Sahak said they stopped drawing water after 9pm on Monday.

"The more turbidity the water the more chemicals need to be used for treatment," said Zahid, adding that the same problem happened 10 years ago.

He suspected that some development along the river in Hulu Selangor caused the pollution.

Fisherman Mohd Kamal Abdul Rahman, 45, said the water was so muddy that he did not catch any fish.

"Today, the water is back to normal and I just caught my first ikan lampam,'' said Mohd Kamal, who was one of the eight fishermen whose livelihood was affected by the water pollution.

Another fisherman, Hamzah Mohd Yusof, 53, said his hand turned reddish when he dipped his hand in the river.

"I got worried. I normally catch ikan baung and udang galah here and earn about RM30 daily.

"With the river returning to normal, I hope my catch will improve,'' said Hamzah, from Kampung Hang Tuah in Batang Berjuntai.

Syabas said the turbidity was usually 300NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units) on normal days at the Sungai Phase1 plant.

Syabas has also put 42 lorries and 230 static tanks on standby to send water to the affected areas.

Selangor state executive councillor Elizabeth Wong said the state government felt that the water level at the dam in Kuala Kubu Baru was more than sufficient because of excessive rain.

"We have done our part and do not foresee any water shortage in the near future,'' she said

Wong said the onus was on Syabas and Puncak Niaga to ensure that the people did not face water cut.

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Ticking a fancy to the Swiss

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 03:55 AM PST

A WATCH may just be a tool to tell time for many people but those acquainted with the finer points of watchmaking will beg to differ.

One such person who developed a love for timepieces as a child is ATG Watch Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Tham Onn Chuan.

After years of working in the banking industry and as a consultant, Tham ventured into the watch business 11 years ago to pursue his passion for fine watches.

"My father had a Swiss watch, one that he used to wind up every morning and evening. As a child I always wondered what was inside.

"One day, curiosity got the better of me and I prised open the watch with a screwdriver. My father was furious but that was the beginning of my love affair with watches," he said.

The father of two said what fascinated him the most was the 'heartbeat' of the watch — the ticking sound you hear when you hold a mechanical watch close to your ear.

Although he began collecting second-hand Japanese watches when he was in secondary school, Tham was only able to buy Swiss watches when he started working as they were quite pricey.

"The watches didn't come cheap but I used to save up for it and even made trips to Switzerland to look at watches.

"As luck would have it, a friend introduced me to a watchmaker in Switzerland and I managed to convince them to distribute their brand of watches here," he said.

That watchmaker was Epos — a lesser known brand at the time but one that had a long history in making fine watches for private labels.

Tham said Epos watches had an advantage over other brands as they were an entry-level collectible which was affordable yet had all the hallmarks of other Swiss fine watches.

"Some people buy watches to elevate their status and pay higher prices for a popular brand but collectors buy watches for the mechanism and its beauty.

"It is something to treasure and pass on to the next generation," he said.

Currently, ATG Watch has two brands in their stable, the other one being Titoni. The company is the sole distributor for the Swiss-made watches in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Laos.

As an independent distributor of such fine quality watches and someone who has graced the pages of Malaysia Tatler, you would expect Tham to have a big office but the unassuming man prefers to run his business from a small shop in his hometown Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

When he started, marketing both brands was among Tham's first order of business and through strategic partnerships with major golf tournaments and prestigious awards, Epos and Titoni are now names that people can identify with.

"Watch lovers will appreciate the complicated mechanisms. A basic watch has three hands and a date window but complicated mechanical watches have multiple displays such as hour, minute, second, date, day, month and even moon phases.

"Epos also has watches with vintage movements which are uncommon these days and they try to showcase the movement in the intricate design of the watch," he said.

"On the other hand, Titoni has been in the Malaysian market for 60 years and is renowned for its reliability, classic design and excellent after-sales service.

"The brand is a familiar name and it enjoys its own following," said Tham.

Price-wise, both brands offer good value for money and are perfect for novice collectors or those who appreciate the quality of Swiss watches.

He said Epos watches retailed from RM3,000 to RM278,000 while Titoni watches ranged between RM1,800 and RM38,000.

Watches from Epos' Jumping Hour collection were the most sought-after while the Airmaster collection by Titoni is also favoured.

"Women love their watches too and are fans of the Master Series Ladies collection by Titoni, which are diamond-encrusted watches with mother-of-pearl dials and 18k solid gold bezels.

"Not only are Swiss watches synonymous with precision engineering but they are also statement pieces that make perfect accessories," he said.

Both brands have new collections each year and among the items to look out for are the limited editions.

The Cathay Edition, which features an image of Shanghai's Cathay Hotel (now Peace Hotel) on the dial, is a limited edition from Titoni while Epos will be ushering the Year of the Dragon with a limited edition watch featuring the mythical creature.

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New RM20mil clinic gives wide range of services for people in Labis

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:10 PM PST

LABIS: Good healthcare services is now more accessible to the local folk with the opening of a RM20mil health clinic here recently.

The range of facilities include 24-hour emergency service, X-Ray, pharmacy and family health care.

Labis MP Datuk Chua Tee Yong said the clinic, which opened its doors on Nov 11 and manned by a team of doctors and nurses, was mooted a few years ago when MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek was Health Minister then.

"It is good news to the people here. Apart from the frontline health care services which open from Monday to Friday, the 24-hour- emergency services is also very important to the people," he told reporters after launching the "Jom Sihat" programme on Saturday.

The event, attended by locals, health officers and community leaders, was held to celebrate the clinic's opening.

Chua said the Government emphasised a lot on health care as reflected in its 2012 budget whereby RM12bil was set aside to provide afforable health care for the people.

He also reminded the people the importance of practising a healthy lifestyle, pointing out that the Health Ministry's statistics had shown that lifestyle-related chronic diseases like heart ailments, hypertension, diabetes and cancer were on the rise in the country.

"The trend is due to an unhealthy lifestyle whereby we eat more than we can and exercise less," he added.

Earlier, Chua also presented financial aid to 13 new kidney patients at Pertubuhan Hea­modialysis Muhibbah Segamat Johor.

Each patient received RM500, he said, adding that Labis MCA had helped some 50 patients at the centre since 2008.

Chua also announced RM3,000 for the clinic and RM5,000 for the dialysis centre for them to conduct activities with the community.

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School needs more funds to build commercial building for rent

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:11 PM PST

BATU PAHAT: SM Chung Hwa Rengit is lacking RM3mil in funds to build a commercial building for rent, the amount of which will supplement the school's operation expenditure.

School board chairman Lim Bon Chai said the private school's yearly operation expenditure ran up to RM600,000.

He said the school had bought a 4ha plantation in Kota Tinggi and Benut to build 10 three-storey shophouses to collect rent.

"The properties including the commercial lots in Batu Pahat and plantations cost RM10mil in total and we still need RM3mil to reach the target.

"The money will help supplement the school's spending and strenghten its financial position," he said after the ground-breaking for the ceremony commercial building in Batu Pahat on Monday.

Also present at event, where RM1.13mil was raised, were Batu Pahat MP Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zakarshi and donors.

The 61-year-old school which has produced many professionals and specialists in various fields, has 320 students.

The state government and Dr Mohd Puad also allocated RM500,000 for the school earlier this year, he added.

Dr Mohd Puad, who is also deputy Education Minister, said education was important for the country and that the Government did not discriminate when providing financial aid to schools.

He said all schools in his constituency, including 14 Chinese schools and and a Tamil school, received between RM30,000 and RM100,000 each under his constituency allocation.

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Malaysia still maintains 56.4% of land area as forests

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 03:16 PM PST

MALACCA: Malaysia is still able to maintain 56.4% of its total land area as forested land, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said recently.

He described it as an encouraging achievement because many countries were not able to do so as their forest areas had been opened for development.

"This success is very significant because Malaysia is still a developing country where development and forest land-use change for other purposes still happens," he said in his speech at the opening of the 16th Malaysian Forestry Conference here.

The text of the speech was read by Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

Uggah said the most important challenge in today's forest management was to balance the competition and various land use for forestry activities.

He said the forest was not just a producer of a product, but also to produce clean air and water, as well as to absorb carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, in his speech when opening the conference, said Malacca had gazetted 5,327 ha of forested land or 3.2% of the state's total land area as permanent forest reserves.

"This effort is made on the commitment by the state government to maintain a permanent forest area to provide a clean environment and for the preservation of the biodiversity for the people's well-being" he said.

The speech was read by the State Rural Development and Agriculture Committee Chairman Datuk R. Perumal.

He said the state government would continue with its tree planting effort, adding that a total of 17,250 trees had been planted since 2005. — Bernama

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Disarming dengue

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 03:38 PM PST

The search and wait for the elusive dengue vaccine may soon bear results, but ongoing dengue prevention efforts must continue.

BEING the national coordinator for the ongoing dengue vaccine efficacy trials in the Philippines, Dr Maria Rosario Capeding is a paediatrician who is very familiar with dengue. But this familiarity did not help ease her anxiety when her 21-year-old son, Juhani, came down with it a year ago.

"He was a first year medical student, and he was also worried about his studies. He felt weak and helpless," she says in an e-mail.

It started when Juhani fell sick with a high fever and headaches. A tourniquet test – a useful screening test for dengue – that was done on the second day came back negative.

However, because of his persistent fever, Dr Capeding had to be sure. She ordered a complete blood count and some specific blood tests for dengue for Juhani on the third day. He was confirmed to have dengue type 3.

But when Juhani's high fever lasted for more than a week than the average four to five days, and his platelet counts dropped, Dr Capeding was fearful and apprehensive that he might have potentially fatal bleeding.

"I know that dengue can simply be managed by fluid replacement and this is easy for me to say during my lectures to physicians. I realised that the reality is different, especially when it is your child who is sick," says Dr Capeding.

Dr Capeding's story may not be typical (how many of the estimated 220 million people infected with the dengue virus every year have relatives who are doctors or dengue researchers?) but it contains many lessons about dengue prevention and treatment.

Without a working vaccine, we cannot actually protect ourselves from dengue. The best way to decrease the risk of getting infected is to reduce our chances of getting bitten by a mosquito by destroying mosquito-breeding sites.

And without specific treatment, doctors can only manage their patients' symptoms and help their patients stay strong enough to fight the virus from within.

But most of all, Dr Capeding's story highlighted the emotional cost that comes with dengue.

Although she knew that a dengue vaccine is still years away, she couldn't help but wish it was available earlier. Perhaps, this episode could have been prevented.

A vaccine in progress

The search for a viable dengue vaccine has been going on for more than 60 years. Due to the unique characteristics of the dengue viruses and the disease in humans, it had been difficult to develop a vaccine that is effective and safe.

As there are four types of dengue viruses that can cause the disease, developing a vaccine that will help the body produce antibodies against all four is technically challenging.

On top of that, when a person's immune system has developed antibodies against one type of dengue virus, it may respond more aggressively when he is infected by another type of virus and result in more complications.

This is why scientists also had to make sure that after vaccination, the antibodies developed against the four types of viruses would be individually strong enough to fight off each of the viruses without triggering those reactions.

Making things even more difficult is the fact that dengue is a human disease. Animals do not get sick when they are exposed to the virus.

"We don't have an animal model for the disease. Tests on rodents and primates can only show whether our vaccine can elicit antibodies," says Sanofi-Pasteur's global department of research and development associate vice-president Jean Lang. As such, scientists can only predict the viability, and not the efficacy or effectiveness, of the vaccine before it is tested in humans.

The clinical trials to test the efficacy and effectiveness of several candidate vaccines are already under way, and a candidate vaccine by the company is one of them.

However, since October last year, the company's candidate vaccine is the first to enter phase III clinical trials, the last scientific hurdle for the vaccine to prove its worth before health regulatory bodies can decide to approve its use in their respective countries.

These trials are currently ongoing in six countries from South East Asia (including Malaysia), six from Latin America, the United States, and Australia.

The vaccine is (simplistically) a concoction of four different, weakened, viruses that each contain a DNA backbone of a Yellow Fever virus that is inserted with a gene that codes for the membrane and envelope of one of the four dengue viruses.

"So far, there is promising data ... and we are hopefully optimistic," says Lang. Published results from Phase I studies funded by Sanofi Pasteur, one in the US and another in the Philippines, have suggested that the vaccine is safe and able to elicit an immune response from almost all adult participants and more than 80% in children and adolescents when given in three doses within a year respectively. Phase II results from an efficacy study in Thailand is expected to be available by the end of year 2012.

A glimpse into the future

While the vaccine is found to be able to elicit immune responses from adults, adolescents, and children, it is currently tested in children.

The reason behind this strategy is to vaccinate people before they are exposed to the virus, says Lang. "In Thailand, most of the children are exposed before they are 12. That is why we vaccinate those who are between four and 11 years old," he explains.

Although estimated statistics show that worldwide, children are still more likely to experience serious complications of dengue like dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) or dengue shock syndrome (DSS), the age groups that are most affected by the disease differ in different countries.

In most of Asia, for instance, more young children are affected by dengue compared to adults. In Malaysia, however, the incidence of dengue infections is highest in the working and school-going age groups that are above 15 years of age. Also, since year 2000, more people above 15 years old die from dengue compared to those who are younger.

If all goes well, a vaccine may be available by the end of 2014, says Lang, who also revealed that a production plant is already being built to produce the vaccines once it is approved.

"The critical question is how is the vaccine going to be rolled out, and what is the vaccination process?" he notes.

The target population, age group and location of vaccination (whether in schools, or made available to the public in health centres) is up to the various health authorities to decide based on their health delivery system and the disease pattern of dengue in their countries.

In year 2009, a scientific forum called Dengue v2V (vaccine to vaccination) was formed to ensure that future dengue vaccines, once licensed, are readily introduced into the vaccination programmes of countries with the highest burden of disease.

"Hopefully, when the vaccine is rolled out, it will not be too pricey so that it can be made available to the general population," says Dengue v2V chairman Professor Emeritus Lam Sai Kit. A vaccine is of no use if people could not afford it, he adds.

Cost-effectiveness studies done so far had projected that millions can be saved in terms of treatment and hospitalisation costs. But even greater would be productive time of patients and caregivers saved through less illness and fewer fatalities, says Donald S. Shepard, PhD, a researcher from the Brandeis University Schneider Institute for Health Policy who had done some of the studies.

That being said, a vaccine is not a replacement to all the ongoing efforts to prevent dengue infections.

A vaccine may confer protection to those who will be vaccinated in the future, but it may take months and years for it to have an impact on the general population. Also, there are also other diseases, like chikungunya, that are transmitted by the Aedes mosquitoes.

That is why vector control and community efforts to reduce the numbers of the Aedes mosquito and aid in the early detection of dengue must continue.

Even so, the possibility of a vaccine has given renewed hope for those involved in dengue prevention and control.

With a working vaccine, the eradication of dengue may still be decades away. But without one, it would have been impossible.

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