Jumaat, 9 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Congo's Kabila re-elected, opposition claims victory

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 07:56 PM PST

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The main challenger in Democratic Republic of Congo's election declared himself president on Friday and poured scorn on provisional official results handing victory to incumbent Joseph Kabila.

Supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila are seen celebrating through a banner with his image after provisional election results are announced in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, December 9, 2011. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun

Clashes broke out between tire-burning protesters and security forces in the mostly pro-opposition capital, Kinshasa, and fears mounted a post-election dispute would reignite conflict in the war-scarred central African state.

The head of the electoral commission said on Friday Kabila won nearly 49 percent of the votes to rival Etienne Tshisekedi's roughly 32 percent, results an observer group later said appeared suspicious.

In Washington, the Obama administration called on Congolese authorities to complete the election process "with maximum openness and transparency."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said the Kinshasa government "remains responsible for providing security for the people of the Congo" and that anyone involved in violence "must be held accountable."

Electoral commission chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda called for calm. "(The results) are no reason to whip up the population against the established order to contest the results, or to settle scores," he told officials and diplomats gathered to hear the results.

Tshisekedi said he rejected Kabila's victory and considered himself the newly elected leader of Congo.

"I consider these results a real provocation of the Congolese people," he said in an interview on RFI radio. "As a consequence, I consider myself, from today, the elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Opposition supporters burned tires in parts of Kinshasa, a sprawling city of 10 million, and chanted Tshisekedi's campaign slogan, "The people first." A U.N. source said there had been clashes with security forces and reports of shooting.

Gunfire erupted in Mbuji Mayi, an opposition stronghold in the south of the country, an hour after Kabila was named winner, a local civil society leader said. "We can hear gunshots everywhere, it's still going on," he told Reuters.

Celebration broke out in other parts of the country.

At least 18 people have been killed in election-related violence, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, as opposition protesters took to the streets alleging the government was attempting to rig the vote.

The November 28 poll was Congo's first locally organized presidential contest since a war that killed more than 5 million, and is meant to move the country toward stability and encourage investment after years of conflict and turmoil.

Government Communications Minister Lambert Mende said Tshisekedi's self-declaration as president was "nonsense and illegal" and warned that it could spark violence.

"We're calling for Mr. Thshisekedi to come back to legality and not to threaten the peace of the country just because the people didn't choose him," he told Reuters by telephone.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Congolese on Friday to avoid violence over the results.

The dispute mirrored a post-vote crisis in Ivory Coast that sparked a civil war. But unlike in Ivory Coast, the U.N. mission will not be in a position to take sides, as it does not have a mandate to certify the results and did not observe the poll.


The announcement of the result had been delayed twice earlier in the week due to logistical problems and as donor nations urged more transparency, stretching the nerves of residents both eager for and worried about the outcome.

An international observer said workers were analyzing results posted on the election commission website but that they had already spotted a number of irregularities, notably in Katanga, where Kabila scored particularly well.

In some districts of Katanga, voter turnout was pegged at nearly 100 percent with all or nearly all of the votes going to Kabila, according to the website. (click here for an example: http:/www.ceni.gouv.cd/resultat_circons/Malemba-Nkulu.pdf)

"These results aren't even naturally occurring, you simply don't get that many people all being healthy, motivated, getting to the polls and voting in such unison," said David Pottie, mission manager for the U.S.-based Carter Center.

"It's a fundamental mark of disrespect for Congolese voters. ... The sole owner of responsibility for this is the (electoral commission). Its agents have signed off on these kind of results in multiple places," he said.

The website also showed that the results from nearly 2,000 polling stations in Kinshasa, potentially amounting to about 700,000 votes, had not been tallied.

Third-placed finisher Vital Kamerhe said he also rejected the results, in part because of the Katanga numbers. "The Congolese people have chosen Etienne Tshisekedi," he said.

In Katanga's capital, Lubumbashi, the heart of the country's copper mining industry, residents were blowing vuvuzela horns and whistles and others were firing guns into the air in celebration, a foreigner living there said.

"People are singing, there is clearly a lot of joy," he told Reuters by telephone, asking not to be named.

Britain's Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, said he was concerned by reports of irregularities with the vote, but urged that "any challenges to the results should be conducted through the proper channels, not through violence."

"Similarly, the reaction of the security forces to any disturbances will be key; they need to react proportionately and avoid escalating confrontations," he said in a statement.

The government of neighbouring Congo Republic said this week it was preparing a refugee camp north of Brazzaville in case violence forced people to flee across the Congo River.

Kabila came to power when his father, Laurent, was assassinated in 2001, and later won the country's 2006 election. He has struggled to control marauding rebel groups in Congo's east despite U.N. backing.

Congo is last on the U.N. human development index despite rich mineral resources, and investors say it remains one of the most challenging countries in the world in which to do business.

(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Braun in Kinshasa, David Lewis in London and Andrew Quinn in Washington; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by David Lewis, Louise Ireland and Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Drone crash unmasks U.S. spying effort in Iran

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 05:26 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The crash of a CIA drone in Iran has brought into the open what U.S. intelligence agencies would prefer kept secret: intense spying efforts in a country where the United States has no official presence.

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. An undated picture received December 8, 2011 shows a member of Iran's revolutionary guard (R) pointing at the U.S. RQ-170 unmanned spy plane as he speaks with Amirali Hajizadeh, a revolutionary guard commander, at an unknown location in Iran. The unmanned U.S. drone Iran said on Sunday it had captured was programmed to automatically return to base even if its data link was lost, one key reason that U.S. officials say the drone likely malfunctioned and was not downed by Iranian electronic warfare. REUTERS/Sepah News.ir/ Handout

Iran on Thursday aired with great flourish footage of the captured drone, which appeared largely intact. Pentagon and CIA spokesmen would not comment on whether it was the missing U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aircraft.

A person familiar with the situation confirmed that the drone that crashed was on a surveillance mission over Iran.

It is believed to have crashed because of a malfunction and not from being shot down or computer-hacked by the Iranians, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

Although there are risks that Iran could attempt to reverse engineer the technology, or sell it to other countries, like China, U.S. officials believe that Iran will not be able to mine the drone's computer systems to learn details of the U.S. surveillance mission.

U.S. surveillance of Iran through various means has been going on for years, U.S. officials and others with direct knowledge of the situation say.

A private U.S. defence expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that when he visited the command centre at a U.S. military base in the Gulf region in 2008, it was clear that the installation was receiving multiple feeds of electronic surveillance information from inside Iran.

Some of the information appeared to be transmitted from high-altitude aircraft and some from electronic sensors which the United States had somehow installed on the ground in Iran, the expert said.

The United States has no official presence in Iran so it is difficult to determine exactly what is going on inside its borders. One recent incident has yet to be fully unravelled.


On November 28, there were contradictory reports out of Iran on whether an explosion had occurred in the city of Isfahan, which is also home to a major nuclear site.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said he has been studying imagery of that area and no damage was detected at the Isfahan nuclear site. But, he said, "it is credible there was an explosion, but not at the nuclear site."

He said it was puzzling that Iranians clearly said an explosion at a missile depot two weeks earlier had been an accident, but did not provide similar clarity about Isfahan. "We're trying to figure out what actually happened," he said.

"Explosions are happening in Iran, and Iran is not making a big deal out of them. They are either calling them accidents or saying they didn't happen, and therefore when these things continue to happen it could be because intelligence agencies are actually now playing sabotage," Albright said.

In the earlier November 12 incident, Iran said a massive blast at a military base west of Tehran killed 17 members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, including the head of its missile program, in an accident while weapons were being moved.

When unexplained events occur that appear to be aimed against Iran's nuclear program, experts often question whether U.S. and Israeli intelligence services were at work.

Iran also has had alleged covert operations against the West come to light. Recently, the United States arrested a man accused of being involved in a plot by Iranian agents to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington.

The U.S. government also accuses Iran of arming and funding Iraqi militias responsible for attacking American troops in Iraq.

U.S. officials do not appear to be the least bit disturbed about mishaps to Iran's nuclear and missile programs that include the Stuxnet computer virus that attacked centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear site.

"Whether it's due to technical difficulties, incompetence, or other reasons, some setbacks to Iran's activities are welcome," a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Writing by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Warren Strobel)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Police identify gunman in Virginia Tech murder-suicide

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 05:21 PM PST

BLACKSBURG, Virginia (Reuters) - The man who fatally shot a campus police officer at Virginia Tech on Thursday before killing himself was a student at a nearby university who had stolen a vehicle at gunpoint the day before, officials said.

Ross Truett Ashley, 22, of Partlow, Virginia is pictured in this undated photograph released by Virginia State Police on December 9, 2011. REUTERS/Virginia State Police/Handout

Virginia State Police on Friday identified the gunman as 22-year-old Ross Truett Ashley, a part-time student at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.

Ashley entered a real estate office in Radford on Wednesday and demanded the keys to an employee's white 2011 Mercedes Benz sport utility vehicle at gunpoint.

He drove off in the vehicle and later dumped it on the campus of Virginia Tech some time before his deadly confrontation with 39-year-old Deriek Crouse, an officer with the Virginia Tech campus police.

The state police said they had not been able to establish any prior contact or connection between Ashley and Crouse and did not know why he walked up to the officer and shot him before turning the gun on himself in a nearby parking lot.

Ballistics testing confirmed the same weapon was used in both shootings, police said.

The incident prompted a lockdown of the campus on Thursday and evoked memories of an April 2007 rampage by a mentally deranged student who killed 32 people and wounded 25 before committing suicide on the campus about 250 miles (400 km) southwest of Washington. That was one of the worst shooting incidents in U.S. history.

Shortly after noon (5 p.m. British time) Thursday, Crouse had a vehicle stopped in a campus parking lot when he was approached by a man and fatally shot while still in his car, police said. The man then fled.

About 30 minutes later, a sheriff's deputy saw a man acting suspiciously in a parking lot about a half a mile from the first shooting. After briefly losing sight of the man, the deputy found him dead on the ground with a handgun nearby, police said.

Police later recovered a discarded backpack on campus with clothing inside that was similar to that worn by the man seen in video taken by Crouse's patrol car.


The man apparently changed clothes on the way to the second parking lot, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said at a media briefing at Virginia Tech. Police are investigating writing found on a wall near the backpack, she said.

Officials did not lift the lockdown on campus until later on Thursday afternoon because they could not immediately identify the man as the shooter and were still investigating tips from the public, Geller said. The body did not have identification on it, but police found an ID in the backpack.

A Virginia Tech student was driving the car that Crouse had stopped, Geller said. The student has been cooperating in the investigation.

Crouse joined the Virginia Tech police department in October 2007 and is survived by his wife, five children and stepchildren, and his mother and brother.

"His death is a tremendous loss to our department," Virginia Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum said at the briefing. Other departments will help patrol the campus while officers grieve, he said.

Virginia Tech implemented new alert systems, including text alerts sent to students' phones, after facing criticism for the school's response to the 2007 shootings. The systems "worked exactly as expected," said Larry Hincker, Virginia Tech's associate vice president for university relations.

(Writing by James B. Kelleher; Additional reporting by Matthew Ward in Portsmouth, Virginia; Editing by Greg McCune and Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Toyo Ink mulls several options for power plant

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 06:02 PM PST

Saturday December 10, 2011

PETALING JAYA: Toyo Ink Group Bhd said it will consider raising funds for its proposed US$2.5bil coal-fired thermo power plant via corporate exercises, borrowing and equity partnerships for a joint venture company in Vietnam.

In a reply to Bursa Malaysia query, Toyo Ink said the project would involve massive capital outlay estimated at US$2.5bil.

The company said it had yet to finalise the financing options for the project.

"It may involve changes in the company's corporate structure, capital management, financial risk management and other exposures that cannot be accurately quantified at this initial stage," it said.

It added that the power purchase agreement, implementation agreement and the developing and expanding cooperation framework with Power Engineering Consulting Joint Stock Co 2 in the interest of fulfilling strategic plan on the thermal power project had yet to be finalised.

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Eye on stock

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:57 PM PST

AFTER jumping from the most recent lows of 45 sen on Nov 23 to achieve an apex of 73.5 sen on Dec 5, SYF Resources Bhd shares went through a brief correction period owing to an apparent profit-taking activity, which saw prices pulling back to the 14-simple moving average of 60 sen.

Thereafter, fresh bargain hunting buying emerged, lifting them to a high of 75 sen during intra-day session before reversing to end down half a sen to 69.5 sen yesterday.

Based on the daily bar chart, this counter appears on the recovery path after a long bearish cycle. Perhaps, investors can consider accumulating some, if one is optimistic while prices still are flirting at an attractive level.

Turning to the indicators, the oscillator per cent K and the oscillator per cent D of the daily slow-stochastic momentum index were on the rise, ending approximately at 78% and 75% respectively yesterday. It had issued a short-term buy at the bottom on Nov 23,

In addition, the daily moving average convergence/divergence histogram continued to expand positively against the daily signal line to retain the bullish note.

Elsewhere, the 14-day relative strength index reversed up from the mid-range to settle at 65 points level yesterday.

Technically, the encouraging landscape suggests SYF Resources may firm in the immediate term. A push above the 77 sen barrier may propel the shares up to challenge the greater resistance of 89.5 sen. The next upper hurdle is envisaged at the 97 sen mark, of which a successful penetration will see the fortune of this stock changing for the better.

Current support is anticipated at the 65 sen level. An additional floor is pegged at the 60 sen line.

The comments above do not represent a recommendation to buy or sell.

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Outcome of EU summit to set direction

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:57 PM PST

REVIEW: Shares on Bursa Malaysia kicked off the week little changed above the flat line, with the benchmark FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index rising 0.71 of a point to 1,489.73, extending the previous week's advances on follow-through support.

However, the matching of business done was sluggish somewhat, as a marginally easier overnight Wall Street, falling 0.61 point to 12,019.42 despite a sharp drop in the US unemployment rate, prompted investors to exercise caution in their trading approach.

Though rising tensions between western governments and Iran, the world's fifth biggest oil exporter, have kept oil prices upbeat, it was not helping the local sentiment.

Meanwhile, stocks in the Asia-Pacific region turned choppy on profit-taking activity following the recent steep rally and ahead of euro zone summit later of the week.

In the absence of fresh leads on the horizon to boost buying momentum, the local bourse subsequently turned sideways, fluctuating between an intra-day high and low of 1,492.71 and 1,487.36 respectively, a pretty tight 5.35 points before ending at 1,489.95, up 0.93 point on Monday.

After a short breather, Wall Street resumed the upward thrust, but the major index came of an earlier 167-point rise to settle up 78.41 points to 12,097.83 due to late profit-taking selling. Elsewhere, crude oil prices added three cents to US$100.99 a barrel.

Apparently, the rebound in US markets overnight gave investors a ray of hope of a steadier trend the next day, but in an unprecedented move, Asian stocks slumped between 0.3% and 1.4% on renewed liquidation amid worries about the European debt crisis after Standard & Poor's warned it may cut long-term sovereign ratings on the 15 euro zone countries.

In the wake of external uncertainty, Bursa Malaysia succumbed to tremendous stress to retreat, shedding 9.03 points to 1,480.92 on Tuesday, tracking the regional peers.

Thereafter, sellers dominated the floor, with more investors moving to the sidelines and it was clearly displayed on the chart, which saw the key index eking out a minor gain of 2.07 points to 1,482.99 solely due to a last minute bid in select quality issues on Wednesday before heading south again, easing 10.07 points to 1,472.92 on Thursday and an additional 12.79 points to 1,460.13 yesterday, as doubts surfaced that a lasting solution to the two-year-old debt crisis would be reached.

Statistics: Week-on-week, the principal index sagged 28.89 points, or 1.9% to 1,460.13 yesterday, versus 1,489.02 at the close on Dec 2.

Total turnover for the regular week stood at 9.598 billion units valued at RM6.641bil, against 6.210 billion shares worth RM6.738bil traded during the holiday-shortened previous week.

Technical indicators: After flashing a short-term sell at the top on Monday, the oscillator per cent K and the oscillator per cent D of the daily slow-stochastic momentum index weakened further to end at the 17% and 37% levels respectively yesterday.

Likewise, the 14-day relative strength index pulled back from a reading of 68 on Monday to settle at 41 points yesterday.

Meanwhile, the daily moving average convergence/divergence (MACD) histogram had indicated a bearish divergence signal and in danger of triggering a sell.

Weekly measurements were unclear, with the weekly slow-stochastic momentum index resuming the downward spiral and the weekly MACD keeping the buy signal.

Outlook: Bursa Malaysia weakened considerably the past week in the wake of fresh selling pressure, pulling the key index to a low of 1,456.71 during intra-day session yesterday.

Based on the daily bar chart, a futile attempt to penetrate the important 200-day simple moving average (SMA) early of the month, combined with unfavourable news filtering out from the Euro zone had prompted the bulls to abandon the idea of scaling higher.

And with the FBM KLCI slipping below the 100-day SMA, 14-day SMA and the 21-day SMA in the latest move, the local bourse is now in great danger of making more downward adjustments going forward. Hence, only a positive outcome of a European Union summit meeting that meets investors' expectation could keep the market staying afloat, as well as the prospect of a year-end rally alive.

Technically, indicators are deteriorating, implying the local bourse is likely to extend the correction process, unless fresh buying momentum emerges.

A slip below the 50-day SMA of 1,447.38 may drag the key index to the 1,424.19 level, of which a clear breakdown will signal an end to the recent rally. In this case, the lower support floors of 1,400 points, the 1,370 points, the 1,350-1,353 points band, the 1,340 points and the base of 1,310.53 would be vulnerable.

To the upside, a successful breakout of the 200-day SMA of 1,503 will see the market turning decisively bullish, thus opening the doors for a re-test of the historical peak of 1,597.08, if not propelling the key index into the unknown territory.

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

McIlroy is exhausted and run down

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:40 PM PST

DUBAI (Reuters) - World number two Rory McIlroy is exhausted and run down and may have to pull out of next week's inaugural Thailand Golf Championship, his Horizon Sports management team said on Friday.

"Rory has a low white blood cell count and low platelets," a member of Horizon Sports who declined to be identified told Reuters at the Dubai World Championship.

"He has a doctor coming to see him again on Saturday evening and they have just told him to hydrate, take iron and salt tablets and rest.

"We've told the Thailand organisers, they know he's been sick for a few weeks. He wants to play there but I think he'll make a decision tomorrow night," added the source.

"The doctors are saying it's exhaustion, him being run down. The blood count obviously affects his energy levels in a big way."

U.S. Open champion McIlroy, who is locked in a straight fight with Luke Donald to win the money-list at the European Tour's season-ending event in Dubai, has had a gruelling playing schedule in recent weeks.

That, however, did not stop the 22-year-old Northern Irishman finishing his first round in spectacular fashion on Thursday, blitzing his way to five birdies in the last six holes to close within two strokes of leader Peter Hanson of Sweden.


McIlroy needs to win in Dubai and for Donald to finish in a tie for ninth with at least two players to be crowned Europe's number one golfer for 2011.

"The doctors have told Rory not to practice at all and not to go to the gym," the source said on Friday. "He's fine but he just needs to conserve energy.

"It's a virus and he needs time off. They don't know where he picked it up but it's one of those that stays dormant for a couple of weeks and then just kind of flares up."

McIlroy tends to suffer immediately after he finishes a round, the source added.

"He's okay generally as long as he takes the advice of the doctors. He can't avoid being in the sun for six hours a day playing golf, as long as he then stays indoors and keeps his energy levels up.

"Rory said as long as he gets a good night's sleep he feels fine in the morning but then he goes out and plays and within an hour of finishing his blood sugar levels go down and he has to go and rest.

"The other problem is when you are run down like that you're more vulnerable to illness ... so if you go to a tropical climate it could be an issue," added the source.

"We've given the Thailand organisers fair warning because we know it's important to them he plays there. He's one of the biggest players in the field next week."

The Bangkok event has a prize fund of $1 million and is the final tournament of the Asian Tour season.

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Sports revenues should grow to US$145bil despite economic woes

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:37 PM PST

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The global economic slowdown is a concern but sports revenues worldwide should grow by about 3.7 percent to $145.3 billion by 2015, according to a research report released on Friday.

The "Changing the Game" report, undertaken by financial services and consultancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, also pointed to sponsorship issues, a growing generation gap between fans, managing media rights and burgeoning player costs as problems facing the industry in the near future.

"The world we live in at the moment is so volatile, you just have to look at what is happening in Europe," Bruce Baillie, PWC New Zealand's markets managing partner, told Reuters in an interview about the report.

"But you also have to take a look at Asia and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies, which are going to be real growth areas.

"There is a growing middle class in all those countries and they're the people that buy the tickets and watch sports on television ... and that is what will drive greater revenue."

The report, which analyzed four main areas of sports revenue -- ticket sales, media rights, sponsorship and merchandising -- estimated global sports revenues were about $121.4 billion in 2010 and projected them to grow on a cumulative average of 3.7 percent to $145.3 billion by 2015.

Sponsorship would provide the largest growth in revenue, up 5.3 percent to $45.3 billion by 2015, though sports organizations needed to be aware that corporate sponsors were now demanding more from their investment.

"There is pressure from the corporate sponsorship, they want real indication of return and value on their investment," Baillie said.

"The mere fact there is your signage at an event is not enough. Companies are looking for (tangible) measures of who's going to see it and how are they going to engage? How are they going to get emotionally involved?"


Baillie also said the report had indicated growth in ticket revenues had slowed dramatically, with attendance at events taking a greater chunk of fans' discretionary income, while ticket prices increased.

As such, organizations had incorporated greater entertainment opportunities like performances from big-name music acts as part of the sporting event to give consumers a feeling of greater value for money.

Fans would also likely "vote with their feet" away from their 'traditional' sports if they remained too expensive, with North American sports and English Premier League matches examples where fans have voiced displeasure at rising ticket costs, he said.

The growing divergence of media platforms, and sale of rights across those platforms such as television, mobile devices and the Internet, would also create issues as consumers grappled with what was 'free' and what was paid content across platforms and geographic regions, the report said.

Burgeoning player salaries had also caused concern, particularly in European soccer where only about 20 percent of clubs were estimated to be in profit each year, though stronger regulation from governing bodies would have an effect.

Baillie added that a generation gap was also emerging in sports which was creating a two-tiered market for fans, with younger fans not attending games but using social media and the Internet to keep engaged, while older fans had the discretionary income to attend, but not engaging in social media.

"There is a divergence of markets. I think there will be for a little while yet, but the future is in one direction," Baillie said.

"The over 40s are getting older and over time will diminish, so there is a generational gap developing (where) you have to satisfy the people who are going to games now as well as entertaining the kids or you will lose them and in 10 years time nobody will be going to the game.

"So (sports organizations) have to straddle both (markets). It's a real balancing act."

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Lotus hope new line-up heralds return to top in F1

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:34 PM PST

PARIS (Reuters) - Lotus aim to be back at the top in Formula One within three years, team principal Eric Boullier said on Friday after announcing France's Romain Grosjean would partner Kimi Raikkonen next season.

The team were constructors champions as Renault in 2005 and 2006, with Fernando Alonso also winning the drivers' crowns, but have not won a race since 2008 and finished a distant fifth overall this year.

Both their 2012 drivers will be making comebacks, with 2007 world champion Raikkonen returning after two years in world rallying.

Grosjean, the 2011 champion in the GP2 support series, started seven races with Renault in 2009 without scoring a point.

"We've changed our two drivers, which is not fashionable but corresponds to owners Genii's desire to become a 'Top Team' again," Boullier told reporters. "The plan is to be world champions in two or three years' time."

Grosjean could not resist a smile at that idea.

"World champion in two or three years, that's fine by me," grinned the Swiss-born driver. "It's hard to describe how I feel.

"I've had a rather unusual journey with a first stint in Formula One which ended in 2009 in a not very glorious fashion but which was necessary for my maturity. It all makes me believe that perseverance pays off."

Grosjean, who worked in a Swiss private bank while racing his way up to Formula One, will not be over-awed by Raikkonen after previously being with Alonso in a team built around the Spaniard, now with Ferrari.

"I'm starting to get used to racing alongside a world champion," he said. "I will have to try and match his pace. He has stopped for two years but is a great champion capable of doing good things."

Grosjean will be one of at least two French drivers on the starting grid, with Charles Pic lining up for Russian-backed Marussia, the renamed Virgin Racing who have yet to score a point.

"If we had a rivalry it was in the other categories before F1," said Grosjean. "We are both there now and even if the aim is to be the best on a sporting level, there's no rivalry."

Boullier said the team's relationship with Robert Kubica, the Pole who would have been their number one this year but ruled himself out for the season with a near-fatal rally accident, was at 'point zero'.

"I don't know if there will be a future between Lotus Renault and Robert," he said. "We have two race drivers, we'll see who is the third (reserve)."

Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio, who lost his seat at Virgin/Marussia after a rookie 2011 season, could be in the frame as one of the drivers in Genii's Gravity Sport Management stable run by Boullier.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

From grim to glam

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 12:47 AM PST

Coco Chanel
Author: Lisa Chaney
Publisher: Viking, 387 pages

GABRIELLE "Coco" Chanel is one of the most well-known designers from the 20th century. She revolutionised women's fashion with her progressive and rebellious style. Her journey from poverty to glamour caught the attention of many influential men of her time. Drawing on newly-discovered love letters and other records, this book reveals Coco's creativity, secret drug habit and lesbian affairs.

The Potter's Field
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Translator: Stephen Sartarelli
Publisher: Penguin, 270 pages

AN unidentified corpse is found near Vigàta, a town known for soil rich with potter's clay. Then, a Colombian man with Sicilian origins disappears. It turns out that he is related to a local mobster, but no one knows what exactly the connection signifies. As he delves deeper into the mystery, Inspector Montalbano notices some similarities to the story in the Bible of Judas's betrayal. This is the 13th book in the Inspector Montalbano series, translated into English from its original Italian by Stephen Sartarelli.

So Near
Author: Liza Gyllenhaal
Publisher: Nal Accent, 311 pages

IT was a tragedy no one could foresee. But the worst thing about it was not what happened that day, but rather, its aftermath. Cal and Jenny's marriage is on the rocks and both are plagued by guilt and are unable to seek comfort from each other. They try different ways to deal with their pain, but nothing seems to work. Then a stranger comes into the picture, and for a while, this acquaintance seems to offer the support they both need. However, the next question is: are they feeling better because they are reconciling, or because they are moving further apart?

Gods Without Men
Author: Hari Kunzru
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, 384 pages

WHEN a four-year-old boy disappears in the middle of a desert, what questions does it raise? More importantly, what are the answers? His parents gets involved in a witch-hunt while a rock star goes into hiding at a motel. Wise men say that stories of the present and past are all connected – so what is the link between a Mormon miner who claims to hear the silver singing in the stones and a guilt-ridden aircraft engineer who looks to the sky, hoping to contact Venus. The universe might be chaotic, but maybe there are patterns in chaos, if we look hard enough.

Author: Ross Raisin
Publisher: Viking, 262 pages

MICK Little is a former shipbuilder in Glasgow. He returned from Australia more than three decades ago, carrying nothing with him except memories of his younger days. His wife, Cathy, has expressed her longing to return to Britain for a long time now. But then, in an unfortunate twist of events, she dies from industrial asbestos poisoning. He thinks it's probably his fault, but there's nothing he can do about it now. He gets a new job and tries to start over, but then is accused of going up against management. He is fired, loses a place to live, and becomes one of London's many homeless. He's reached the bottom, now, the waterline.

On Canaan's Side
Author: Sebastian Barry
Publisher: Viking, 256 pages

WHAT is the sound of an 89-year-old heart breaking? Lilly Bere's grandson, Bill, has just died. While she mourns the loss, she revisits her past, going back to when she was forced to flee Dublin at the end of World War I. In America, she encounters a world filled with hope and danger, and she tries hard to make sense of the people whose lives she has touched. Told through her eyes, in a first-person narrative, this story of memories, war, family ties and love spans almost seven decades.

Take It Like A Mom
Author: Stephanie Stiles
Publisher: New American Library, 309 pages

ANNIE used to be a lawyer who wore clothes that could only be dry-cleaned, but things have changed since she became a stay-at-home mum. Now, she wears cargo pants and pulls her hair back. Then she finds out that she's pregnant with her second child. Not a problem, she went through it all once before, right? But things are different this time: her husband loses his job, she lets pre-school politics get to her, and she has a fight with her arch nemesis on the playground. How is she supposed to take it like a mum when the world seems to be against her?

Author: Lou Ureneck
Publisher: Viking, 243 pages

LOU has hit middle age, and with it comes disappointment – the death of his mother, job loss, a health scare and a divorce. Having been in the city for over a decade, he decides that this would be a good time to build a cabin in the woods and live there. So he buys a piece of land in the wilds of Western Maine and asks his younger brother, Paul, to help him. The brothers first built a house together about 20 years ago – could this project make them reconnect with each other?

Chango's Beads And Two-Tone Shoes
Author: William Kennedy
Publisher: Viking, 327 pages

WHEN journalist Daniel Quinn bumps into Ernest Hemingway at a bar in Cuba in 1957, little does he know how much it will change his life. Eleven years later, Robert Kennedy is assassinated and Cuba hovers on the verge of race riots. Daniel unexpectedly gets thrown into the world of crooked politicians, junkies, gangsters and heroic journalism. His unpredictable revolutionary wife, Renata, gets thrown into the mix too. When will the madness stop?

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Sign of the times

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 12:35 AM PST

HAVE you caught those cute ads for the new TV drama, Switched At Birth, that talks about learning a "cool new language" and then has its stars "speak" a sentence in sign language?

One of the show's protagonists – one of the girls who was, in fact, switched at birth and given to the wrong mother – is deaf, and she is portrayed by the perkily cute Katie Leclerc, who is hard of hearing in real life and is making sign language all the rage among young people in the United States.

Over here in Malaysia, one company has decided that it is cool to learn a new language and is releasing a book that offers Malaysians the chance to not only understand sign language but also Deaf culture.

Let's Sign: Understanding Deaf Culture, Learning Sign Language, And Communicating With The Deaf, published by RC Deaf Missions Malaysia, will be on sale tomorrow at their kiosk on the Ground Floor, Centre Court, Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; the book will be available at this location until Dec 18. The first 1,000 people to buy the book will receive a surprise gift.

RC Deaf Missions Malaysia was established by siblings Agnes and Mario Peter in 2006 with the vision of making a difference in the livelihood of Deaf persons, and "to be a successful service industry with Deaf impact".

For more information, go to www.rcdeafmissionsmalaysia.com.

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Saving JFK

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 12:30 AM PST

Stephen King's tale of time travel explores the possibilities in — and perils of — changing the past 'for the better'.

Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner, 849 pages

A RULE of thumb I follow regarding books: If the author's name is bigger than the title, caveat emptor.

When the author is Stephen King, however, perhaps there is some justification. Even more so when the title is the word-less 11/22/63. That's Nov 22, 1963, the day John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot. And yes, there is reason to be wary of this book – but only because it might get hold of you and never let go. The first time I opened it, I almost skipped lunch.

The much-anticipated novel about a time-travelling English teacher who inherits a dying man's quest to stop the assassination of the 35th US President pretty much lives up to the hype that has surrounded it since the publishing world first got an inkling about it.

Jake Epping is, in his own words, not a crying man. But an essay by one of his adult students, janitor Harry Dunning, manages to make him weep. It's not (just) the atrocious grammar and spelling. It was a horrific account of how, as a child, Dunning survived his father's drunken, murderous rampage that claimed the rest of his family.

Then he meets Al Templeton, the owner of a diner that has a portal to an exact time and date back in time: 11.58am, Sept 9, 1958. Who cares how the portal came to be, as long as Templeton gets to buy cheap, good-tasting, chemical- and hormone-free beef from the good old days. A sceptical Epping goes through the portal, and falls in love with the root beer he buys at a store – no preservatives, Templeton guesses. We never know if it's A&W's.

Of course there's a catch. On his shopping trips back in time, Templeton had toyed with the idea of changing American history by saving JFK. But Templeton gets cancer before he can do anything, and he's not sure when his time will be up, so he appoints Epping as the heir to his mission. But when Epping has second thoughts after his attempt to fix Dunning's future backfires, Templeton commits suicide. With the weight of a dead man's last wishes on his shoulders, our sentimental English teacher takes a seemingly permanent step into the past.

King is said to have done heaps of research for this book. Through the words of Epping, now George Amberson back in 1958, we experience the life of an ordinary American in the golden post WWII era. Much of the book really is about how Epping/Amberson adapts to and lives in the past, which he does perhaps a little too well. We look into his head, see through his eyes, hear with his ears.

The book tries to help us experience those days. Store signs, newspaper headlines and billboards are announced in capital letters and different fonts. Phonetic spelling of some words in the dialogue goad us to read them aloud. Go on, say "beer" the Maine way: "beeyah". It's fun ... for the first two times. Yes, I heard about the Easter eggs, too. However, I could only spot references to The Shawshank Redemption and It in the pages; fans of King will undoubtedly find more.

It's quite some time to 1963, so Epping/Amberson passes the time by teaching at a school in Texas. And getting involved with its pretty, popular librarian, Sadie Dunhill. But it's only a matter of time before someone discovers the truth about him.

This is quite a good read despite the heavy American flavour, the long drawn-out build-up to the confrontation with JFK's assassin, and the shocking consequences that follow, not to mention the multi-font all-caps assault on the eyes. The boring and incredible parts where Epping/Amberson stalks Lee Harvey Oswald and the explanation of time travel physics barely register on the disbelief suspension scale. It's Stephen King, after all.

Wish I could say you can't put it down, but if you're reading the hardcover version, you'll have to or you might develop a cramp bearing the weight of this 840-page tome in your arms. Looks like King threw just about everything he'd researched into this book.

Hints at a yearning for a rose-tinted past echo throughout King's almost fairy tale-like depiction of the US half a century ago, calling to mind the Camelot myth spun around JFK not long after his death. Perhaps the question, "what if Kennedy survived?" is a yearning for a return to those days, when a charismatic young senator took the White House against all odds and, later, as president, faced up to a belligerent world power an ocean away under the shadow of a mushroom cloud – and won a desperate gamble.

Not only does today's US hardly resemble that storied Arthurian realm, its people might also be wistful about a return to Camelot. King's 11/22/63 gives us a tantalising peek at such a possibility, but also cautions us that it is perhaps better to let the past be and work on the now – and towards the future.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Jolie quiets Bosnian critics with war film screening

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:40 AM PST

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Victims of Bosnia's 1992-95 war had most of their anxieties over a film by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie put to rest at a private screening this week.

Objections to filming Jolie's tale of love between a Serb man and a Muslim woman in Bosnia last year forced the Hollywood star to shoot most of the film in nearby Hungary. Only some of the exterior scenes were shot in Bosnia.

But the Thursday night screening of the film in Sarajevo to representatives of victims' associations elicited positive reactions from some of Jolie's toughest local critics.

"She has made a fantastic film for Bosnia and Herzegovina, I can really say that from the angle of a victim," Murat Tahirovic, the president of Bosnia's association of (wartime) detainees, told the Federal Television in Sarajevo.

Tahirovic was among a dozen representatives of wartime victims invited to the closed screening of Jolie's directorial debut "In The Land of Blood and Honey".

"Everybody should see this film," Tahirovic said.

In October 2010, a Bosnian minister cancelled Jolie's filming permits citing incomplete paperwork, after female victims of the Bosnian war objected to details of the plot, alleging it was about love between a rapist and his victim.

The film tells a tale of love between a Serb man and a Muslim woman before the Bosnian war, who later meet in different circumstances - he is an army officer and she is his detainee.

Victims of sexual violence in Bosnia wrote to the United Nations refugee agency, saying Jolie did not deserve her role as a UNHCR Good Will Ambassador, and did not know enough about the Bosnian conflict.

Jolie first came to Bosnia last year as an UNHCR ambassador.

She filmed most of the feature in Budapest but asked war victims voicing their objections to the movie to reserve judgement until they had seen the finished product.

One of the loudest opponents to Jolie filming in Bosnia said she was now satisfied by the film's portrayal of the war.

"Two hours of film is not enough time to show all (the horrors of the war), but I think Angelina managed to do it," said Sadzida Hadzic of the Women-Victims of War association.

However, Hatidza Mehmedovic, who lost her husband and two teenage sons in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys, said she was disappointed the film was shot elsehwere, even though she congratulated Jolie.

"The film is so strong, so difficult, it would be stronger if it was shot in Bosnia," she told Reuters.

The closed screening was organised by the Center for post-conflict research, and was not open to media.

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Well-timed success

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 12:10 AM PST

Actor-singer Dicky Cheung is among the first Hong Kong stars to build a career in the mainland after leaving TVB.

WHEN Dicky Cheung left Hong Kong at the height of his TVB career to crack the China and Taiwan markets in 1999, he did not even know how to pronounce his own name in Mandarin.

These days, the singer-actor – Zhang Weijian to most Chinese fans – speaks fluent Mandarin with a Beijing accent and is happy he left "when the time was right".

"If I had waited till now to do so, it would have been too late as it is more difficult to break into the China market," says Cheung, 46.

In Singapore recently for the opening of Maurice Lacroix's flagship boutique in Marina Square, the Swiss watchmaker's first Asia ambassador was dressed in a flashy silver suit. His Mandarin still bears hints of his native Cantonese twang at times.

Of late, many artistes such as Bowie Lam and Sammul Chan have left Hong Kong's leading television station TVB to pursue better careers and fatter paycheques in the mainland, but Cheung left way before they did.

Best known for his portrayal as the Monkey King in the 1996 adaptation of Journey To The West, he ran into a contract dispute with TVB. When his contract ended around 1999, he left the station to further his career in China and Taiwan. A 2003 report pegged him as earning 49mil yuan the previous year, making him the highest-paid Hong Kong entertainer in China then.

Asked if he had the foresight in pursuing the opportunities in those markets, he laughs and rejects the notion.

"Honestly, I didn't foresee anything. It was all a coincidence. When my contract ended, a China company wanted to sign me on, so I thought I'd just try," he says. He ended up filming popular serials such as The Duke Of Mount Deer 2000, where he played fake eunuch Wei Xiaobao, a role made famous by Tony Leung Chiu Wai for a TVB serial in 1984.

Cheung has worked non-stop since Chinese New Year this year. He also recorded and promoted his first solo album in five years, Full Moon. Containing Mandarin and Cantonese songs, it was released in July.

He has also just wrapped up filming on a new idol drama, The Next Magic, which co-stars Nicholas Tse. It is likely to be screened in China or Taiwan next year.

Cheung, however, is unperturbed about appearing less frequently on TV.

He says: "My plan is to film a maximum of two television series a year. In the past 10 years, I've been living my life on sets. So, in the days to come, I hope to spend more time on myself and my family, doing things I like."

He is married to China actress Jess Zhang Qian, who is based in Beijing, and the couple have no children. His mother and two younger brothers live in Hong Kong. – The Straits Times, Singapore / Asia News Network

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Coming soon

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 11:54 PM PST

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Ethan Hunt is back with another mission! This time round, Hunt and the whole IMF agency are shut down when they are suspected of being traitors.

Left without any resources, Hunt is forced to work with a team of fellow IMF outcasts to clear the agency's name. Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton and Michael Nyqvist.

Snow Flower And The Secret Fan – In 19th century China, Snow Flower and Lily, both seven years old, are matched as "laotong" – girls who are bonded for life as kindred spirits. They are isolated by their families, but still communicate with one another by writing in a secret language in between the folds of a silk fan.

In a parallel story, Snow Flower and Lily's descendants Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in present-day Shanghai. However, by understanding their ancestors' kinship, Nina and Sophia learn to appreciate and accept the old culture.

Starring Li Bingbing, Vivian Wu, Gianna Jun and Russell Wong.

Alvin And The Chipmunks 3 – The singing chipmunks are up to their usual antics in the third instalment of this movie franchise.

Alvin, Simon, Theodore and the Chipettes somehow find themselves shipwrecked on a deserted island. As Dave frantically searches for them, the chipmunks make the best of the situation by ... singing, dancing and creating mayhem. Starring Jason Lee, David Cross and Jenny Slate with the voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Christina Applegate, Anna Faris and Amy Poehler.

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The Star Online: Nation

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Lim full of praise for navy, submarine after dive

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:54 AM PST

Published: Friday December 9, 2011 MYT 8:55:00 PM

LANGKAWI: After experiencing the dive with KD Tun Razak submarine for one-and-a-half hours, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng acknowledged the capability of the national submarine which was a subject of criticism by several opposition leaders for purportedyly not being able to dive.

Lim described his first submarine experience as interesting and exciting and was full of praise for the professionalism of the officers and men of the Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM).

"We dived down 30 metres...there's no doubt about it," he told reporters after returning from the submarine cruise by helicopter at Langkawi International Airport Friday.

He said he was impressed with the professionalism of the commanding officer and the sailors.

"If you go into the submarine..it's very enclosed space. For 32 officers and crew to be able to function and operate in an enclosed space for a long period of time is an exceptional and impressive achievement. I'm proud of our boys," he said.

He said he appreciated the contributions of national heroes who served the nation and were willing to sacrifice for the nation and their professionalism was unquestionable.

However, he had a very different view on the cost of the submarine.

"We need to have submarines. But there's one thing that we have our views, its about cost," he said.

Lim said he was invited by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to take a dive with the submarine and accepted the offer as he wanted to see the condition of the submarine himself.

Accompanying Lim in the submarine dive were both Penang Deputy Chief Ministers Datuk Mansor Othman and Dr P. Ramasamy.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Zahid, who received Lim at the airport, said KD Tun Razak had to travel for 45 nautical miles since 10am before it reached deeper water to dive.

He hoped Lim would relate the actual experience today so that the issue of defence was not politicised. BERNAMA

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Five crime reduction NKPI achievable, says Home Ministry sec-gen

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:49 AM PST

Published: Friday December 9, 2011 MYT 8:49:00 PM

PUTRAJAYA: The Home Ministry is confident that the five National Key Performance Indicators (NKPI) to reduce crime this year would be achieved.

Secretary-general Tan Sri Mahmood Adam said this was based on the latest crime index which showed a downward trend.

"As what had been promised, we will ensure that the crime index goes down by five percent every year," he told reporters.

During the briefing on National Key Result Areas (NKRA) in conjunction with the programme, Bukit Aman NKRA implementation division head Supt Dennis Lim Kwang Keng said four of the five targets had already been achieved.

"These include the crime index reduction by 10.1 percent this year as at October, compared to the corresponding period last year," he said.

He said as at October, street crime was reduced by 40.6 percent, surpassing the 40 percent target while prosecution cases rose to 23.6 percent as compared with the 20 percent target. BERNAMA

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Sultan Sharafuddin: Stop covert attempt to convert Muslims

Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:43 AM PST

Published: Friday December 9, 2011 MYT 8:42:00 PM
Updated: Friday December 9, 2011 MYT 8:43:36 PM

TANJONG KARANG: The Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has ordered the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) to take strategic steps to root out a subtle attempt to proselytise Muslims.

"I was informed that the proselytisation of Muslims, which occurred over the last few years, was done covertly and those involved were cunning in concealing evidence," he said when opening the RM5mil Kampung Gulang-Gulang Mosque here Friday.

He said Jais must continuously give explanation and counselling to Muslims who had committed apostasy.

"Let me remind Jais to be discreet in its actions and approaches so that Muslims who have began distancing themselves from Islam will be enchanted to return to the fold and repent," he added.

The Sultan said he was worried over the emergence of apostasy among Muslims, apart from Islamic deviationist teachings, as it would damage the growth and development of Islam in Selangor if left unchecked.

On his instruction that only those who were qualified and certified by Jais could preach in mosques, Sultan Sharafuddin said it was aimed at preventing Muslims from being misled or confused.

He called on residents of Kampung Gulang-Gulang to live in harmony and goodwill despite embracing different beliefs and ideologies.

The Sultan also urged Muslims to use the mosques to foster friendship and understanding as it would help entice the younger generation to emulate the integrity of congregators.

The Sultan later joined the Yasin recitation and thanksgiving prayers led by Selangor mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid in conjunction with his 66th birthday and 10th year reign as the Sultan of Selangor.

He also received payments of tithes amounting to RM100,000 from the Selangor Agricultural Development Corporation and RM600,000 from Maybank Islamic Bhd. BERNAMA

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