Selasa, 13 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Strong quake hits PNG, no reports of damage

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 10:13 PM PST

(Reuters) - A strong earthquake struck the Pacific state of Papua New Guinea Wednesday, but no tsunami warning was issued as the quake occurred inland, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

The 7.3 magnitude tremor was centred near Lae, the country's second-largest city, at a depth of around 115 km (71 miles) the U.S. Geological Survey said.

"It was very, very big," said Dolly Kinibo, a receptionist at the Lae International Hotel.

"It lasted for two to three minutes. The whole building moved. The Christmas tree moved, we all moved, people are very shaken. There are no reports of injuries or damage, but our managers are checking."

The quake sent goods flying from the shelves of Lae's Foodmart store but caused only minor damage and no injuries. "It wrecked some displays and caused some damage to the ceiling, but touch wood nothing serious," said store manager Albert Martinez.

Residents in the capital Port Moresby, 223 km (138 miles) from the epicenter, also reported feeling the quake.

PNG, a country where the majority of people live subsistence lives despite its abundant mineral wealth, sits on the geographically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

(Reporting by Michael Perry in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Gunman turns Belgian Christmas market into bloodbath

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 04:25 PM PST

LIEGE, Belgium (Reuters) - A lone gunman brought carnage to the Belgian city of Liege on Tuesday, spraying bullets at Christmas shoppers and hurling a grenade at people waiting for a bus, killing four people including a girl of 17 months before shooting himself dead.

Rescuers evacuate injured people at the Place Saint Lambert square where two men threw explosives in the city center of the Belgian city of Liege December 13, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Dricot

The attack, in which another 125 people were wounded, paralysed the centre of Belgium's fifth city, with workers trapped in offices as police sealed off the area, helicopters circled, and ambulances poured in from as far away as the Netherlands.

The man's motive was unclear but Belgian officials said there was no indication it was an act of terrorism.

Witnesses said 33-year-old Nordine Amrani had begun his rampage at about 12:30 p.m. near a bus stop at Place Saint Lambert, site of Liege's bustling Christmas market and its main courthouse. Shoppers scattered to flee the bullets.

Gaspard Grosjean, a journalist for a local newspaper, was in the square moments after the attack.

"We saw people with bullet wounds in their shoulders, their hands," he said, adding that he had seen one body.

"I see people completely scared, people are crying, everyone is on their phones."

Amrani was freed from jail about a year ago after a conviction for possessing weapons and drug offences.

Justice officials said Amrani had been summoned to answer police questions that morning on an undisclosed matter, but never turned up.

One witness told RTBF radio: "He had a bag. He got a grenade out of his bag. He threw the grenade at the bus stop.

"Then he had a Kalashnikov (rifle). He shot in all directions. Then everyone ran to try to save themselves. Then he got a revolver out and put a bullet in his head."


Police said the dead were two boys of 15 and 17, a 75-year-old woman, and a toddler of just 17 months whom hospital doctors fought for hours to save.

Liege's mayor, Willy Demeyer, said the two boys had been taking school exams nearby just before the attack.

By evening, Place Saint Lambert, whose Christmas market of around 200 stalls attracts over 1.5 million visitors each year, was still sealed off, covered with shattered glass and pools of blood, and there was still no indication of Amrani's motive.

At his most recent address, an apartment block near the scene of the attack, Johan Buron said he had been astonished to learn what his neighbour had done.

"He was calm, every time I met him in the corridor he was very friendly and said 'Hi'," he told Reuters. "If my memory serves me right, he was a welder."

Amrani was convicted in 2008 for illegal possession of arms and for growing a huge field of cannabis. "He has no history of terrorist acts," prosecutor Daniele Reynders told a news conference in Liege.

A spokesman for Belgium's crisis response centre also said there was no indication that it had been a terrorist attack. It was not clear whether Amrani was Belgian.

Prosecutor Cedric Visart de Bocarme told Belgian television that Amrani had been in jail several times since his youth, and said that police searching his home had not found any further weapons or suspicious items.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo expressed horror at the attack and travelled to the city, 90 km (55 miles) east of Brussels. Belgium's king and queen also visited.

Random killings are rare in Belgium. Most recently, in January 2009, a man stabbed two infants and a woman to death and injured 13 at a nursery in the town of Dendermonde.

(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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U.S. move to hold aid strains ties with Pakistan

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 04:17 PM PST

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers are ready to freeze up to $700 million (451 million pounds) in aid to Pakistan until Congress gets assurances that Islamabad is helping fight the spread of homemade bombs in the region, a move one Pakistani senator called unwise and likely to strain ties further.

U.S. Army soldiers watch as a M-ATV armored vehicle burns after it struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar in this July 23, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Bob Strong/Files

Pakistan is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid and the holdup on some aid for fiscal 2012 affects only part of the civil and military assistance it gets each year.

But it could presage even greater cuts. If the proposal passes Congress as expected this week, it could delay military aid used to support Pakistani troops in counterinsurgency operations.

Calls are growing in the United States to penalise Islamabad for failing to act against militant groups and, at worst, helping them, after the secret U.S. raid on a Pakistan garrison town in which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in May.

Salim Saifullah, chairman of Pakistan's Senate foreign relations committee, warned that relations, which are already at a low point, could worsen further following the decision by the U.S. House of Representatives-Senate panel.

"I don't think this is a wise move. It could hurt ties. There should instead be efforts to increase cooperation. I don't see any good coming out of this," Saifullah told Reuters.

But in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States and Pakistan had already been working together on the issue of homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices.

"So if -- obviously if this legislation becomes law, we'll work with the government of Pakistan on how we can fulfill the requirements," she said.

The legislation says no more than 40 percent of the money for the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Fund could be obligated or spent in fiscal 2012 until the U.S. defence secretary reports on "a strategy to enhance Pakistani efforts to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDS)."

A congressional aide said that since some $1.1 billion was proposed to be appropriated for the fund in fiscal 2012, the measure would effectively put a hold on nearly $700 million of it. But appropriations for fiscal 2012 are not yet final, and if Congress appropriates less than that amount, then less could be held up as well.


Homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), are among militants' most effective weapons against U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan as they struggle to fight a resurgent Taliban insurgency.

Many are made using ammonium nitrate, a common fertiliser smuggled across the border from Pakistan.

The holdup on U.S. aid was agreed as part of a defence bill that is expected to be passed this week.

The United States wants "assurances that Pakistan is countering improvised explosive devices in their country that are targeting our coalition forces," Representative Howard McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters.

The report from the U.S. defence secretary is required to include a discussion on whether Pakistan is demonstrating commitment and making significant effort toward countering IEDs, "including efforts to attack IED networks," the legislation says.

The United States has allocated some $20 billion in security and economic aid to Pakistan since 2001, much of it in the form of reimbursements for assistance in fighting militants.

But U.S. lawmakers have expressed increasing frustration with Pakistan's efforts in the war.

There have been proposals to make economic as well as military aid to Pakistan conditional on more cooperation in fighting militants.

Pakistan's civilian leaders have warned against aid cuts, saying it would only harden public opinion against the United States.

Pakistan says it is doing all it can to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban and has lost thousands of soldiers since it joined the U.S.-led war in 2001.

Islamabad has accused NATO of killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in an air strike near the Afghan border last month and shut down supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan in anger.

The decision to freeze aid could prompt Pakistan to harden its stance towards Washington.

"I think the Pakistan side will understand the type of signal that is coming, which shows it's not only a question of aid," former general and security analyst Talat Masood said.

"The whole attitude of the U.S. and the relationship will be affected by these measures because they know Pakistan will not be in a position to control the smuggling."

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, also suggested pressure from the United States would hurt ties, saying Islamabad believes "in cooperative approaches."

U.S. lawmakers said many Afghan bombs are made with fertiliser smuggled by militants across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

A U.S. Congressional Research Service report in October said the Pakistani factories, owned by one of the country's biggest companies, Pakarab, have been producing over 300,000 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate per year since 2004.

The United States has urged Pakistan to regulate the distribution of ammonium nitrate to Afghanistan strictly. So far, Pakistan has produced draft legislation on the issue.

(Additional reporting by Saeed Ali Achakzai in CHAMAN and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Paul Tait and Vicki Allen)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

'The League' picked up for fourth season

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 04:56 PM PST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - FX has ordered a fourth season of the fantasy football comedy ''The League,'' now earning series-high ratings in its third season, the network announced Tuesday.

The show, produced by FX Productions, includes Mark Duplass, Stephen Rannazzisi, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Katie Aselton and Jon Lajoie in its ensemble cast.

The series is currently averaging 1.7 million total viewers and 1.5 million in the 18-49 demographic, up 25 percent and 32 percent from season two. Season three has featured guest stars including Seth Rogen, Jeff Goldblum, Sarah Silverman, Ray Liotta, Will Forte and Eliza Dushku.

'''The League' continues to be one of our most successful comedy series both creatively and from a ratings standpoint,'' said Nick Grad, said FX executive vice president of original programming.

The series was created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Schaffer (''Curb Your Enthusiasm,'' ''Seinfeld'') and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (''Disturbia,'' ''EuroTrip'') who also serve as executive producers and directors.

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Far from over

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:17 AM PST

A conflict between two universes, featuring a complex yet absorbing storyline, sums up the third season of Fringe.

EVEN from the first season it was clear that Fringe looked like a series that knew how to keep the viewers' attention from start to finish. Its winning formula included the fantastic scientific anomalies in each episode (which fascinated and disgusted us all at the same time), the intelligent and witty writing, and the interesting main characters that drove home the story. In season three of Fringe, all these elements are still present, especially the exploration of the characters, which takes on an even fuller form.

The series uses its parallel universe theory-plot to great advantage.

Alternating between our universe and the parallel one – while using the same actors – Fringe has created two different sets of characters and happenings. The parallel universe is set as "Over There" while "Over Here" is our universe. Before the end of season two, we learned FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is trapped in the parallel universe while her counterpart, dubbed Fauxlivia by fans, is the one who travelled back to our universe with Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Walter Bishop (John Noble). For the first few episodes in season three we follow the goings-on with Olivia, Over There, and with Fauxlivia, Over Here.

Actress Torv must be commended for how she portrays both Olivia and Fauxlivia so that the audience can see they are not the same person. Later on in the season, Torv must tackle playing yet another character and she does so quite splendidly. You'd never guess who she plays. If there is a shortcoming where Torv is concerned, it is a very slight one and it's not even her fault. You see, the red wig that Torv has on when she is Over There is a little unconvincing.

Elsewhere, we know that Olivia carries the weight of the world on her shoulder and always has a haunted look, whereas Fauxlivia has a cheerier disposition. Again, it pays to remember Fauxlivia is pretending to be Olivia, an act that obviously has Peter and Walter fooled, much to our frustration. Come on, Peter, you know that's not your Olivia!

Phew, this sure is an extreme measure in keeping the romantic pair apart. But as we follow Fauxlivia's interaction with Peter and Walter, it gets harder and harder to hate her.

Fauxlivia is quite fun and, really, not that different from Olivia. That picture, however, gets tainted in the very next episode when we see our beloved Olivia in dire straits as she fights Walternate (Walter's counterpart who happens to be on a destructive path even if that means having to sacrifice some lives.)

Again, as the second season has revealed to us – Walternate's thirst for revenge is quite justified for what had been done to his family and his world. It's amazing how actor Noble has yet to be awarded with an Emmy for his brilliant performance with dual roles. There is an immediate difference in the characters. Hello, Emmy committee, why don't you see it?

It is ironic, but what grounds Fringe is Walter. The only way to describe this character is that he is an eccentric, with a touch of mad genius plastered all over.

It doesn't help his case that some of the bizarre occurrences that the Fringe division ends up investigating have something to do with the unethical experiments he conducted when he was younger. Yet, Walter's driven personality to solve the mysteries and his unquestionable love for his son gives the sci-fi backdrop a touch of reality.

In season three, we see Peter and Olivia's relationship taking precedent over Peter's relationship with Walter. It's kind of heartbreaking to see Fauxlivia using Olivia's hard-to-admit confession that Peter belongs with her as an advantage in completing her mission.

What diabolical plan Waltnerate has is still unclear especially when you take into consideration what he is doing to our Olivia. Again, it is very easy to paint both Fauxlivia and Walternate as the bad guys but Fringe has never been about taking the easy way. For God's sake, Fringe has us watch all the scenes closely just so we could catch the bald man known as The Observer who is always lurking somewhere.

Whether it's debating belief and science (in one of my favourite Fringe episodes titled White Tulip in season two) or just concentrating on a love between a man and a woman (season three), the series presents storylines in a most original manner. Needless to say, as season three progresses, Peter's relationship with the woman he loves is also put under the microscope. Even as all these somewhat normal happenings are going on, we know the story is propelling towards an unknown course thanks to Walternate. All we can do is brace for impact.

Like I said, Fringe definitely knows how to get our full attention.

n Fringe is aired on Ntv7, every Saturday, at midnight.

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Tragedy and truth

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:23 AM PST

The Murder Of Canny Ong was a poignant tribute to a young life lost.

THE brutal murder of 28-year-old Canny Ong in 2003 remains embedded in the minds of many Malaysians. The tragedy shook the nation not just because of the gruesome and senseless nature of the crime committed – Ong was abducted, raped, stabbed and torched – but also because it happened in a popular and upscale neighbourhood-mall that was fitted with security cameras.

Ong, an IT-analyst living in the United States with her husband Brandon Ong, was back in Malaysia to visit her ailing father. On June 13, 2003, a day before she was due to return to the US, Ong went out for dinner with some family and close friends at the Bangsar Shopping Complex in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. After their meal, she went to the basement carpark to retrieve her parking ticket from her car. She asked her mother and sister to wait for her by the autopay machine.

Unfortunately, Ong never returned with the ticket. After waiting for 20 minutes, Ong's mother Pearly Visvanathan Ong and her sister decided to go to the car park to look for her. When they went down they found the car, a purple Proton Tiara, missing. Sensing something bad had happened to her daughter, Pearly ran to the mall's security office to view the CCTV tapes. The tapes confirmed their worst fears: they saw Canny being abducted by an unidentified male who drove off with her in her car, crashing past the exit barrier of the carpark.

Days later, Ong's charred remains were found in a manhole along Old Klang Road in Kuala Lumpur. Forensic and criminal investigators found evidence that led to the arrest of a 27-year-old aircraft cabin cleaner, Ahmad Najib Aris.

The news of Ong's murder was covered widely by the media and followed intently by the public. The randomness of the crime – Ahmad Najib had no apparent motive – made it all the more horrific and prompted many unsolicited and baseless conspiracy theories much to the dismay of Ong's loved ones.

Ahmad Najib confessed the crime to the police but later pleaded his innocence in front of a magistrate. But, the evidence was damning and he was found guilty in 2005 and sentenced to hang.

It's been eight years since Ong's murder and while the speculation about her death has ceased, many questions remain unanswered.

Who was Ahmad Najib and why did he abduct Ong? Why did he torch her body? What led the police to him? What about the conspiracy theories? Why didn't the undercover policemen who found Ahmad Najib and Canny by the roadside arrest him immediately?

The Murder Of Canny Ong, a documentary by directors Ahmad Yazid and Rob Nevis commissioned by AETN All Asia Networks exclusively for the Crime and Investigation Network aims to unscramble the mishmash of facts and conspiracy theories that were published by the media in presenting the facts of the case through careful examination of police documentation, interviews with the investigators on the case as well as insight from Ong's family and friends who were with her on the night of her abduction.

In a press conference promoting the documentary, executive producer for AETN All Asia Networks Chris Humphrey said he hoped the documentary could give viewers a "clear and credible perspective" of the case and also serve as a remembrance for Ong.

"I would love for Malaysians to know this case inside out and to stand back and look at how the story is being told from an outside point of view ... one that is credible and follows the facts of the case and the chronology of events. It is also to remember Canny Ong. This was one case that really touched the hearts of everyone," he said.

The hour-long documentary, which premiered on Monday night, certainly succeeded in being a remembrance of Ong. The exclusive interviews with Noreen Natasha (Ong's close friend who was at the farewell dinner) and Pearly were poignant and reveals the pain and torture that Ong's family and friends went through.

It was clearly still difficult for Pearly to talk about her daughter – she mentions at the end of the documentary that she sometimes pretends that Ong is still alive and residing in the US. Still, she manages to muster up the courage to recall the events leading to Ong's disappearance – she relates how she had an uneasy feeling as they were looking for a parking spot as the carpark was dimly lit. She recalls how, throughout the initial stage of the investigations, she had a sinking feeling, fearing that something terrible had happened to her daughter. Noreen shares the trauma of having to go to the hospital morgue to identify Ong's remains.

Also, she speaks about having to break the news of Ong's disappearance to Brandon.

It's a terrible thing listening to a mother talk of her deceased child. It is so easy for us to get caught up with the facts of a case or get riled up about the hunt for the perpetrator or find fault with the handling of a particular case that we forget that there are real people involved that are suffering a real loss. We forget that for the family and friends of Ong, the murder is more than a case. It's a tragedy.

While the The Murder Of Canny Ong documentary chronicled the case in detail – the interviews with SAC Abu Bakar Mustaffa (who was the Selangor CID chief) and Amidon Anan (head of forensics) shed light about the details of the investigations that led to Ahmad Najib's arrest – there are still some unanswered questions at the end of the documentary.

First of all, there wasn't a clear enough explanation about why undercover cop lance corporal S. Ravichandra didn't arrest Ahmad Najib immediately upon seeing the woman beside him (Ong) apparently pleading for help.

The policeman got their identity cards and shot the front tyre of the car twice but why couldn't he chase them down or call for back up? It really wasn't clear what happened. Did the policeman run an immediate check on the two ICs he had seized – if he had, wouldn't he have known immediately that the woman was a victim in a kidnapping? Or does this only happen in crime dramas on TV?

Also, although documentary producer Lydia Lubon explained in the aforementioned press conference that it was difficult to secure interviews with friends and family of the victim (because of the private nature of Malaysians who would rather not talk about personal issues in public), it was rather disappointing that there were no interviews with some of the other people who were involved, either directly or indirectly, in this case.

Was it not possible to secure an interview with Ahmad Najib – even if he could not be on TV, to get a comment from him through his lawyer? Was it not possible to get a statement from Ong's spouse? And what about Ahmad Najib's wife? Perhaps she could have shed some light on the man who so brutally took the life of an innocent woman.

There was an interview with a neighbour of Ahmad Najib, but nothing from his wife? What is her life like now that her husband is awaiting the gallows?

And how come no one spoke to the management of the mall – didn't they think it suspicious that a car rammed through the barrier? Why didn't the guards check the security videos before Pearly approached them?

Even if none of these people wanted to be interviewed, I think it would have made a great difference if the documentary mentioned these points.

As it stands, The Murder Of Canny Ong was a good documentation of the events of the case and a poignant tribute to a young life lost but as for unanswered questions? I still have many.

The Murder Of Canny Ong encores on the Crime and Investigation Network (Astro Ch 732) on Dec 13 (11pm), Dec 15 (8pm), Dec 16 (10pm), Dec 17 (8pm) and Dec 18 (10pm).

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Proposed IT Bill may be dropped

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 03:19 PM PST

PUTRAJAYA: If information technology (IT) professionals feel they do not need protection, the proposed Computing Professionals Bill 2011 could "end here".

Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof said there was nothing "solid" yet and the ministry was still gathering views.

"That is why we had the open day.

"It is the first step and if industry players suddenly feel they need no protection or something to represent them, the initiative could just end here," he said, adding that the Bill was aimed at uplifting the IT profession.

"It was mooted after a series of discussions with industry players who said they wished to see a body that represents and protects them,'' said Fadillah.

He likened it to bodies such as the Malaysian Medical Association and the Malaysian Institute of Architects.

"The ministry is just facilitating the process to set up such a body for IT professionals," he told reporters after a memorandum of understanding signing ceremony with Saudi Arabia King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology here.

Meanwhile, the MCA Young Professionals Bureau has warned that the proposed Bill could potentially force companies to relocate or shut down due to a lack of human capital.

Bureau chairman Datuk Chua Tee Yong said the formation of the Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia would stifle innovation and creativity.

"The Bill's enactment will be counter-productive and will significantly shrink the talent pool so greatly needed by the industry.

"We cannot support it and therefore seek the withdrawal of the proposed legislation," he said after presenting the bureau's views and comments on the matter to the ministry here yesterday.

Chua, who is also Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, said the proposed Bill was against the objective of developing the industry under the 10th Malaysia Plan in which information and communications technology was one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas.

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Verbal spat over proposed Computing Professionals Bill

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 03:19 PM PST

PUTRAJAYA: The IT community did not mince words in expressing their opposition to the proposed Computing Professionals Bill 2011.

Many IT professionals present at the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry's open day said they had not been consulted during the drafting of the Bill.

"If you had consulted the larger community and included us in the drafting process from day one, this whole issue would not have blown up," said software developer Haris Fazila Jamil.

Another professional, who could not be identified, said the Bill would only allow people registered with the proposed Board of Computing Professionals to play an active role in application development.

"People would not even be able to write code for fun if the Bill was passed," he said.

Others in the industry also felt that the Bill would do more harm than good in its current form.

But the panel, made up of four representatives from Pikom, the Malaysian National Computer Confederation and academia defended the draft.

They said the proposed Bill would not hinder wider participation in the IT industry, but encourage it.

"Our intent is to allow (more people to practise IT)," said Prof Zaharin Yusoff of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Datuk Dr Halimah Badioze Zaman, head of the ICT cluster at the National Council of Professors, said they welcome feedback from the IT community to help improve the Bill.

The draft of the Bill was released on the Internet on Dec 8, but no one has admitted to posting the 56-page document online.

It generated intense discussions on Twitter and Facebook.

The IT community can submit their suggestions and concerns over the proposed Bill to the ministry.

They can e-mail during a 30-day period allocated for the purpose which started yesterday.

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Quality bus services still a pipe dream

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 03:11 PM PST

A CITY bus service that is not only efficient but profitable remains, to a large extent, a pipe dream.

The litany of woes faced by operators of bus services in various cities and towns in the country is symptomatic of the fact that we do not take public transport, especially the bus service, as seriously as we should.

That thousands of residents in Selangor waited for the bus that never came following the suspension of the Cityliner services run by Konsortium Transnasional Bhd (KTB) yesterday is testimony to how serious the problem has become.

KTB's lament is that the current model of stage bus operations is simply not working out well. It is losing money big time and crying out for a lifeline.

In the interest of the ordinary people who depend on the bus to get around, the matter must be sorted out as soon as possible.

Whether it is due to a breakdown in communication, or hurt egos on any side, the interest of the rakyat must come first.

But this is only a short-term solution.

For the longer term, it is important that all bus operators sit down together and work out a strategic plan for the future.

Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad (Prasarana) has started an initiative for a strategic collaboration exercise with its competitors.

Its group managing director Datuk Shahril Mokhtar also agrees that the "present public transport industry faces tough economic circumstances due to regulated fare structure and increasing operational costs".

It's a good start but for it to really work, all the players must be involved. They should see an efficient bus service in terms of the social benefits.

As Shahril puts it, "there must be enhanced punctuality, trip frequency and reliability ... to project a better image of the industry to the general public and effectively encourage high utilisation of public transportation".

Those who have travelled to countries where the bus service is as efficient as any mass rapid transit system, will tell you how reliable and punctual the bus can be.

In some countries, if the bus is to arrive at 12.13pm, it means 12.13pm, not a minute more or less. Dedicated bus lanes ensure that buses run on time.

Here, we have piecemeal efforts, where even attempts to draw bus lanes, invariably lead us nowhere.

When we look at the Klang Valley, we know that the LRT system will never be complete without an efficient bus network.

The MRT players must seriously look into this as well.

Be that as it may, the current bus service, whatever its weaknesses, remains an important artery of livelihood for city folk.

Which is why you will see these buses jam-packed with commuters at certain hours, when ferrying commuters to and from work.

At other hours, it is not unusual to see a bus driver having the whole bus to himself, simply because not many people take the bus to get from one point to another.

It is important, therefore, to keep the buses running.

The Land Transport Commission (SPAD) must do the right thing for now while the operators work out the long-term solution.

Done right, the number of commuters will surely increase, and the money will flow in.

Then the pipe dream of an efficient and profitable bus service will surely become reality.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Fountain of blood

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 04:15 AM PST

If anything, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I is tolerable because it's so pretty to look at. Nothing else.

THERE'S really nothing director Bill Condon could have done to make Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I less wince-inducing than it turned out. Not when the source material was so hilariously bad in the first place.

Yet, despite its deep flaws (and boy are they many) Breaking Dawn is a finely produced movie, obscenely blessed with a budget that more deserving movies should have gotten. The much-anticipated wedding is a gorgeous affair – every detail is lovingly shown, from the white flowers that hang from the trees in thick cascades to Bella's wedding gown with its intricate lace at the back. Then the happy couple is off to Isle Esme off the coast of Rio in Brazil for every young girl's dream honeymoon. Complete with bed breaking (but chastely unseen) sex. Que the teen sighs.

Entertainment wise, if you can ignore the overwrought romance, awful acting and script, telepathic CGI werewolves and violent birthing scene (efficiently snipped away by our censors), Breaking Dawn is tolerable because it's so pretty to look at. But the story. Oh, the story! What a painful piece of fiction! The chief problem I have with is that it conveys such twisted messages about love, sex and relationships to the eager masses – especially to the young women that consume it – that I just have to put out a community service message.

What's so wrong about Breaking Dawn? Let me count the ways (warning: spoilers!):

That the love between Edward and Bella is considered ideal: The movies and novels would like you to believe that Edward and Bella are the modern Romeo and Juliet, so very destined to be together despite their different backgrounds. Yet the couple disappear into each other rather than remain unique individuals who complement each other. In fact, the Twilight series seem to say that it is okay to wrap your entire identity around your other half. And that rather than talk about your troubles in the marital bed, it is preferable to deny your young wife sex. Or that although marrying means not seeing your biological family ever again, it's okay because he's your true love. If ever there's a couple in need of a marriage counsellor – they are it!

That a woman's highest attainable goal is to marry her prince: "Who gets married at 18?" asks one of Bella's friends who concluded that Bella must be pregnant to do so.

I almost wished that she was. Before the wedding, that is. Not during the honeymoon when Bella conceived a hybrid child which will proceed to suck the life out of her.

Bella is 18 – a crucial age where a young woman decides the direction her future would take and when she forms her sense of self. True, women in the past have married at that age or even much younger. But this is 21st century America where women have a number of options their predecessors were denied. We are not given any reason why Bella decides to make such a drastic decision, though in the book she only reluctantly agrees to do so only so that she could bed her beau. (For your information: Not a good reason to marry.)

I am surprised that Bella's apparently well-grounded father – who is a sheriff, mind you – did not raise any objections to his daughter's decision. The movie, at least, showed how suspicious he was about the whole rushed affair, though he didn't even conduct background checks on her daughter's future in-laws. Even her mum thinks it's the best thing ever.

Marriage, says Breaking Dawn, precedes the goal of discovering who you really are before tying your life to a man or even getting a college education. It would seem that Bella doesn't think much about her goals in life except to be with Edward. We don't really know what Bella stands for, but we certainly know that Edward is her universe.

Painful sex is okay; pregnancy is frightening: Bella awakens after a night of passionate lovemaking sporting some painful bruises. She brushes it aside, saying that it is "okay".

While I hope most level-headed people would be able to distinguish between what's truly loving and what's abuse, I'm afraid some would interpret that sex can't be passionate unless it comes with bruises.

And it is true, pregnancy can be a frightening thing for young women. Not only is your body going through changes, you're going to be responsible for delivering new life into the world. So, some critics say that Meyer is conveying the suppressed terror young women have towards nurturing and giving birth to a new life. Some say it is a pro-life propaganda, that although the fetus is endangering your life – its life comes first. But the extremes Breaking Dawn takes the birthing scene seems terribly unnecessary and gratuitous.

To get over unrequited love, find another one to replace her – pronto: Werewolves can fall hopelessly in love in an instance. This "imprinting" is done against their will and dictated by their genes, a really nice and convenient thing to have when you want to explain away difficult emotional tangles.

Jacob and fellow werewolf Leah lament over each other's unrequited loves, wishing that they could "imprint" so that they could get over their lost loves. It would have been far more interesting and healthier if Jacob had gone off to discover who he was and realised that he can live without Bella. Instead, Jacob "imprints" with his former crush's hours-old baby. It was as if Meyer handed Renesmee to Jacob like she's some kind of consolation prize. Can't get the Mum? How about the daughter then? There's so much wrongness there I don't know where to begin....

Inner peace comes in finding the right mate: I don't know about you, but I find the Cullen family (or coven) disturbingly creepy. Don't they seem like a vampiric version of the Brady Bunch to you? They are so content, there are hardly any fights and everyone gets along so very well with one another.

Yet, the vampires all have tragic pasts. Rosalie, for one, was brutally raped and beaten before she was turned into a vampire; Jasper forcibly conscripted, and Esme attempted suicide. They have had their lives violently cut short, had been ruthlessly used or had to even abandon loved ones when they become vampires. This should leave some kind of mark, but they've all found peace. Not through centuries of therapy, mind you ... but because they've found the perfect soul mate that "completes" them.

At the risk of sounding like Dr Phil, inner peace comes from wrestling and taming your inner demons. And it is a far healthier option to generate your own happiness instead of relying on someone else to provide that for you.

That it is okay for a grown man to helplessly and hopelessly fall in love with ... an infant: I hope I don't have to convey just how wrong that idea is. When Jacob "imprints" on an hours-old Renesmee (expect millions of mothers to name their bouncing babies that) it was not romantic. It was hair-raisingly creepy.

You would think that Elizabeth Tai would swear off watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II, but she can't wait to do so because a) she's a completist b) she just wants to see how awful it can get.

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We Bought A Zoo Tickets For Free

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 01:52 AM PST

Based on a true story, this movie tells of Benjamin Mee and his family and how he one day decides to pick up and buy a home that has a zoo for it's backyard. Could this single-parent cope with not only raising his young kids, but a home full of exotic animals?

Catch We Bought A Zoo in cinemas this month. eCentral and 20th Century Fox are giving away 40 pairs of tickets to a special screening of the movie starring Matt Damon.

To get a free pair of tickets, print this page and exchange it for the tickets. Find details of redemption and screening below.

Redemption Details

Date: 19 December 2011 (Monday)

Time: 11am to 1pm

Venue: Lobby of Menara Star, Star Publications, 15 Jln 16/11, Section 16, 46350 Petaling Jaya.

Screening Details

Date: 20 December 2011 (Tuesday)

Time: 9.30pm

Venue: Hall 11, GSC 1 Utama (New Wing)

Rules & Regulations

1. This redemption is open to all eCentral fans.

2. Print out the contest page and redeem it at the venue given in this article.

3. Each page entitles you to two movie tickets only. Each person is allowed to redeem only once.

4. Tickets are given out on a first come, first served basis.

5. Queue-jumping and reserving places in line during the redemption are strictly prohibited. The organizers reserve the right to refuse tickets to anyone found doing so.

6. Tickets are not exchangeable for cash.

7. Movie ratings will strictly apply for this movie. Please refer to your ticket or your daily newspaper for ratings. The organizers reserve the right to refuse entry to the cinema hall to those not within the permitted age limit. No exceptions will be made at any time for any reason.  

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Solve The Case With Sherlock Holmes

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 01:22 AM PST

Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room ... until now. there is a new criminal matermaind at large -- Professor Moriarty -- and not only is he Holmes' intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade, points to suicide. But Sherlock deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder -- a murder that is only one piece of a larder and much more portentous puzzle, designed by Professor Moriarty.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows hits cinemas on 20 December. eCentral and Warner Bros. are giving away premiere screening tickets.

We have 50 pairs of tickets to give away. To get a free pair of tickets, print this page and exchange it for the tickets. See details of redemption and screening below.

Redemption Details

Date: 16 December 2011 (Friday)

Time: 10am to Noon

Venue: Lobby of Menara Star, Star Publications, 15 Jln 16/11, Section 16, 46350 Petaling Jaya.

Screening Details

Date: 20 December 2011 (Tuesday)

Time: 9.30pm

Venue: GSC Mid Valley

Rules & Regulations

1. This redemption is open to all eCentral fans.

2. Print out the contest page and redeem it at the venue given in this article.

3. Each page entitles you to two movie tickets only. Each person is allowed to redeem only once.

4. Tickets are given out on a first come, first served basis.

5. Queue-jumping and reserving places in line during the redemption are strictly prohibited. The organizers reserve the right to refuse tickets to anyone found doing so.

6. Tickets are not exchangeable for cash.

7. Movie ratings will strictly apply for this movie. Please refer to your ticket or your daily newspaper for ratings. The organizers reserve the right to refuse entry to the cinema hall to those not within the permitted age limit. No exceptions will be made at any time for any reason.  

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Books for children

Posted: 12 Dec 2011 07:19 PM PST

CHILDREN'S advocacy organisation, Voice of the Children (VoC) is continuing its efforts to raise public awareness of children's rights by adding two books to its on-going series that tackles issues faced by children at risk.

Who Is My Family? The Story Of Kailash The Little Zebra, written by Quek Sue Yian and illustrated by Khairul Azmir Shiob, and Fin The Brave, written by Shalini Gonzaga and illustrated by Koh Joo Na, highlight the plight of refugee and stateless children.

According to VoC's chairman, Sharmila Sekaran, teaching aids will soon be available for all children's books published by the organisation. "We hope parents, teachers and other carers will be able to use these aids to help children understand the sorts of problems many kids are facing in the world today," she said.

VoC's other titles are Cats In The Rubbish and The Little Dancing Bear.

All the books are available at Silverfish Books (No. 28-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, % 03-2284 4837, e-mail, visit and Kinokuniya Bookstore at Suria KLCC (% 03-2164-8133, e-mail, can also place an order by calling VoC at 03-7960 4776 or e-mailing

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Divers picked up after missing for five hours at sea

Posted: 12 Dec 2011 06:15 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) saved two local divers who have drifted to open sea for more than five hours near Tanjung Piai waters in Pontian.

APMM Johor Baru Enforcement chief Maritime Captain Mohd Sabri Mohamed said that the two divers aged 30 and 32 years were rescued some 3.4 nautical miles southwest of Tanjung Piai at around 6pm.

He added that the agency received a report at around 1.30pm about two divers that went missing near the area.

"A search and rescue mission was launched immediately to find those two missing divers," he said in a statement.

Mohd Sabri said that a team of four APMM personnel arrived at the scene at around 4.30pm to find the missing divers.

"About an hour later, we received a report from the Johor Baru Maritime Operation Room that a vessel saw two missing men floating near the vessel at 3.4 nautical miles southwest of Tanjung Piai.

"When the team arrived at the scene some 15 minutes later, the missing divers were drifting around near the vessel," he said adding that the divers were then brought to the Marine Department jetty along Pantai Lido here for investigations.

He also added that initial investigations revealed that the two men were part of a five men diving crew that went diving from the Tanjung Piai jetty at around 11am.

"They went diving some five nautical miles southeast of the area however these two divers did not arise to the surface for more than three hours.

"We believed that strong sea currents may have pushed them to the open sea," he said adding that the two men went diving to take pictures of shipwrecked vessel did not informed the Marine Department about their activity.

Mohd Sabri also said that APMM is investigating the case under Section 491b (1) (I) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 for conducting marine activities without informing the Marine Department.

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Association celebrates in style

Posted: 12 Dec 2011 06:15 PM PST

BATU PAHAT: The Batu Pahat Chinese Chamber of Commerse (CCCBP) celebrated its 103th anniversary with a special gala recently.

The celebration was held at Ocean Chinese restaurant and attended by more than 600 people across the country.

The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCCIM) chairman Tan Sri William Cheng said the CCCPB is the oldest chamber of commerce in the country and actively involving in activities to boost the economy in the district.

Batu Pahat houses more than 20 public-listed companies, is the second largest industrial town in the state after Johor Baru.

"The assocation becomes the most influential group of business people in Johor and has been fighting for Chinese business interests, Chinese education, culture as well as welfare," he said during his speech read out by ACCCIM vice-chairman Datuk Seri Lim Sing.

Cheng added that ACCCIM hopes to attract more young entreprenuers to be part of the its family and train them, which in turn would contribute the country's economic.

Meanwhile, CCCBP president Chink Poh Cheng said the association hopes to participate more actively in the state's economic and activities by having representatives in all local councils.

"A proposal was presented to Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman three years ago, today, seven out of 10 local councils in the state have Chinese Chamber of Commerce reprentatives in councillor boards," he said.

Chink added that Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) is organising a seminar with the CCCBP on small and medium industry development on Dec 18 that would be held at the university in Jalan Kluang.

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Potholes on major roads and highways causing hardship to motorists

Posted: 12 Dec 2011 06:16 PM PST

JOHOR BARU: The rainy season is wrecking havoc among road users in the state with the emergence of pot holes along most major roads.

The potholes were also causing massive traffic jams especially during peak hours including along the Pasir Gudang Highway especially with vehicles slowing down to avoid the bad roads.

Motorist Steven Raj, 27, was lamenting with the poor road conditions along Jalan Tebrau and Pasir Gudang.

"I hope that the authorities will patch up these holes quickly as they are really causing a lot of nuisance to motorist as vehicles have to slow down and this causes traffic snarls.

"There are already many of my friends poking fun that JB means (Jalan Berlubang). This will not be good for the city especially with many Singaporeans coming to town especially with the school and Christmas holidays," he said.

Meanwhile, mechanic Song Kit Seang, 24, who commutes along JalanTebrau to work daily hoped the pot holes in front of the shoplots in Jalan Maju would also be covered soon," he said.

Pasir Gudang PKR legal advisor Jimmy Puah said that he had received a lot of complaints from Permas Jaya residents about potholes along Jalan Permas leading to the main road.

"The potholes along Jalan Permas 12 and Jalan Permas 9/5 junction are quite big and could damage vehicles, we hope that the council can act fast before someone gets hurt," he said, adding that some residents even damaged their tyres after running over the potholes especially at night.

Meanwhile Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) here allocates about RM2mil each year for road maintenance and to fix potholes in the city centre.

Council secretary Ismail Abd Rahman said that the potholes were mainly caused by heavy vehicles which damage the road either by carrying too much load or speeding along the roads.

"Inconsiderate heavy vehicle drivers like busses and lorries coupled with the wet season have caused many potholes not only on main roads but also in residential areas," he said, adding that Taman Daya, Taman Pelangi and Jalan Tebrau were among those affected.

He said that the council received about 1,378 complaints from the public so until Nov and 70% were regarding potholes.

"We take necessary action after a complaint is filed by the public and to fix the minor road damages as soon as possible," added Ismail.

He advised motorists to use the roads wisely and be considerate towards others.

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Condition unkempt with undergrowth and lack of care

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 04:55 AM PST

THE condition of the newly-upgraded Jalan Sungai Buloh-Subang continues to deteriorate.

There are numerous potholes in various parts of the road.

The road reserve is unkempt with thick undergrowth and the trees planted as part of the project lacked care and are in a sorry state.

Many streetlights are not working and those along Kampung Selamat have not been working since they were installed.

The drains are clogged and in some places the road is littered with cables and other trash washed down the road.

The traffic lights break down frequently and this has caused many accidents.

The road reserve is also being used as a dumping ground especially near the Kg Baru Sungai Buloh junction.

The jungle-like condition along the road is an open invitation for truck drivers to dump their garbage and make a quick exit.

This road is also congested at times because of the narrow Jalan Welfare in Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh holding up traffic.

Jalan Welfare was scheduled to be upgraded into a four-lane road but the JKR is delaying the widening for reasons known only to them.

Furthermore the timing of the traffic lights opposite the railway station needs to be adjusted because it causes a major jam during peak hours.

It is hoped that Works Minister Datuk Shaziman Mansor will see to it that this federal road is maintained well and that shortcomings do not arise in the future.

In addition, the JKR needs to re-surface Jalan Sungai Buloh-Kepong as it has not been done since the upgrading about 10 years ago.

The JKR also needs to build a large drain in view of the huge volume of water gushing down from the railway culvert near Jalan Desa Aman (near the Caltex station) causing flash floods and traffic jams whenever it rains heavily.

Road user,


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Slippery tiles installed on pedestrian bridges

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 04:52 AM PST

I am appalled to read in Star Metro about the dangerous tiles installed on the pedestrian overhead bridges as raised by Setapak residents.

It has also been a topic of discussion among office staff using the newly-completed pedestrain bridge along 5th mile Jalan Klang Lama which appears to be of similar coloured tiles more often used in commercial buildings.

Nonetheless, the newly installed tiles are very slippery, especially after a heavy downpour.

Surely, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) are aware of their responsibility towards public safety to ensure a proper selection is made for non-slip heavy duty tiles in such places.

Of course, the immediate appropriate action is to replace them before an accident occurred, especially during the rainy season now.

RHH Khoo,

Kuala Lumpur.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Barry Manilow has hip repair surgery

Posted: 12 Dec 2011 05:23 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: "Copacabana" singer Barry Manilow underwent hip repair surgery on Monday, the day after completing a seven-year run of shows in Las Vegas, his representatives said.

The 68-year-old Manilow had the surgery at a Los Angeles hospital, said spokeswoman Annie Jeeves.

"That's what you get when you jump around to 'Copacabana' for 30 years!" Manilow said in a statement.

The surgery was to repair torn abductor muscles and remove fluid-filled sacs in his hips, his representatives said.

Manilow will be in recovery for six weeks, but will return to the stage for a series of three concerts at the Chicago Theater in early February.

Aside from "Copacabana," Manilow's hit tracks include "Mandy" and "I Write the Songs."

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